There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), but some medications may help reduce the symptoms or slow progression of the disease. As AD progresses, brain cells die and the connections between them are lost, worsening the symptoms. Medications may help lessen or stabilize these symptoms.
There are two types of drugs used to alleviate cognitive symptoms: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
Cholinesterase inhibitors (also referred to as AChE) are prescribed to treat symptoms related to memory, thinking, language, judgment, and other thought processes.
- Aricept (donepezil), for all stages of AD
- Razadyne (galantamine), for mild-to-moderate AD
- Exelon (rivastigmine), for mild-to-moderate AD.
These drugs work by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, an essential chemical messenger involved in learning and memory. By keeping acetylcholine levels high these drugs delay or slow the appearance of disease symptoms.
Common side effects caused by AChE include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and increased bowel movements.
Memantine (Namenda) is approved for moderate-to-severe AD, and works by regulating the activity of glutamine, which is a chemical related to information processing, storage, and retrieval, improving mental function and ability to perform daily activities.
The common side effects caused by memantine include headaches, constipation, confusion, and dizziness.
A combination of memantine and donepezil, called Namzaric, also is available.
Other medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, sometimes are used to control the behavioral symptoms of AD. They may be effective for some people with AD, but great caution should be taken because these drugs may increase confusion and the risk of falls.
There are some vitamins, herbals remedies, and other supplements being promoted as having the potential to help prevent or delay the progression of AD. However, there is little evidence supporting the beneficial effects of such treatments. which include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, that may help prevent cognitive decay;
- Curcumin, a herb with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may affect chemical processes in the brain;
- Ginkgo biloba, which is thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties;
- Vitamin E, which may help delay the progression in people who already have AD.
It is important to note that supplements may interfere with other medications and no supplements should be taken before prior consultation with a healthcare professional.
There is a vast array of experimental treatments being investigated in the quest to find a cure for AD. More information about these can be found on our experimental treatments for Alzheimer’s disease page.
Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.