Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Some medications and strategies for managing the condition may temporarily improve some of the symptoms, which can help patients to improve their ability to function and maintain a degree of independence for longer. This in turn can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life – as well as that of their caregivers. Be careful of trusting any supplements, diets, or other regimens that claim to cure Alzheimer’s disease. There are currently only five drugs that are FDA approved and have research-backed success in treating Alzheimer’s.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
This type of medication prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, an essential chemical messenger involved in memory and learning. By keeping the levels of acetylcholine high, communication among nerve cells is greatly improved. The medication can delay the worsening of symptoms for an average of 6 to 12 months for as many as half of people who take them. Some side effects that may occur with these medications include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, dizziness, and drowsiness. Currently four types of cholinesterase inhibitors are FDA approved:
- Aricept (donepezil) is FDA approved for all stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Excelon (rivastigmine) is FDA approved for mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Razadyne (galantamine) is FDA approved for mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Cognex (tacrine) is FDA approved for mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Namenda (memantine)
Namenda is the only FDA approved medication for moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer’s. It works by blocking the toxic effects from excess glutamate and regulates glutamate activation in the brain. It may be prescribed alone or along with other Alzheimer’s medications. There is some research evidence that people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s who are already taking a cholinesterase inhibitor may benefit by adding memantine to their treatment regimen. Namenda may help with memory, thinking and language skills, and some behavioral issues. Headache, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, and confusion are the most common side effects of this medicine.
Unfortunately, these medications don’t work for everyone; and even when they do work, it’s important to remember that the relief is almost always temporary. The best outcome is generally some improvement that lasts for up to a year. But there is hope. Because of the prevalence and continuing increase in the number of Alzheimer’s patients, the disease is in the public eye, and new treatments and research are both ongoing efforts.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that you to seek out support services and reach out to your personal network of friends and family to help you. For those who need caregiver support services or are considering in-home care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, the well-trained, caring team at Specialty Care Services can help.