What Medicines Treat Dementia?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 22 March 2021

What Medicines Treat Dementia?

When a loved one suffers from dementia, their memory loss has an effect on their everyday lives. Unfortunately, there are no drugs that will reverse or delay the development of dementia. However, there are medications available that help relieves any of the effects.

Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are the two most widely used dementia drugs (Namenda). They are often used by doctors to relieve the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent form of dementia. They’re also prescribed for some types of dementia.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors

A cholinesterase inhibitor can be prescribed to your loved one if their Alzheimer’s diagnosis isn’t too advanced. The doctor can even recommend it if they have some form of dementia.

How they work:  These, according to researchers, help inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, a “messenger molecule" in our brains. Acetylcholine plays a part in memory, learning, and mood. Cholinesterase inhibitors often appear to prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms from worsening.

The following drugs are among them:

  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Galantamine (Razadyne, Razadyne ER, Reminyl)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)

What to expect: Many Alzheimer’s patients who take one of these drugs report some benefit, such as reduced anxiety, increased motivation, and improved concentration and memory. Some people are eager to resume their normal activities.

However, the effects tend to be short-lived, lasting just 6 to 12 months. They mostly serve to postpone the progression of the disease for a period of time.

All three drugs operate in the same manner, but one could be more successful for your loved one than for anyone else.

Side effects: When taking cholinesterase inhibitors, the majority of people have no side effects, although some do:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Bruising
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Memantine

The doctor can recommend memantine (Namenda) to treat the symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

What it does: Memory, attention, reasoning, and language can all benefit from memantine. It can even be prescribed with donepezil by the doctor (Aricept).

Memantine aids in the balance of glutamate, a “messenger chemical” used in memory and learning.

What to expect: Delusions (believing facts that aren’t true), hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there), aggression, agitation, and irritability have all been linked to memantine in studies. It will even assist your loved one with disorientation and enable everyday tasks to be simpler.

Memantine is available in a variety of forms, including immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, and oral drops.

Side effects: The following are some of the less serious and typical side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sleepiness

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