Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around 496,000 people in the UK. Dementia is a brain diseases that cause long term loss of the ability to think, mood changes and reason clearly that is severe enough to affect a person's daily functioning. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease, first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, is a physical disease affecting the brain. During the course of the disease, protein 'plaques' and 'tangles' develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells. People with Alzheimer's also have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain.
These chemicals are involved with the transmission of messages within the brain. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, which means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, the symptoms become more severe. Several prescription drugs are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Treatment for Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s
Medications called cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs may help delay or prevent symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time and may help control some behavioral symptoms. The medications include: galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil. Another drug, tacrine, was the first approved cholinesterase inhibitor but is no longer available due to safety concerns.
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Alzheimer’s
A medication known as Namenda® (memantine), an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist, is prescribed to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. This drug’s main effect is to delay progression of some of the symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. It may allow patients to maintain certain daily functions a little longer than they would without the medication.
Doctors usually start patients at low drug doses and gradually increase the dosage based on how well a patient tolerates the drug. There is some evidence that certain patients may benefit from higher doses of the cholinesterase inhibitors. However, the higher the dose, the more likely are side effects. The recommended effective dosages of drugs prescribed to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and the drugs’ possible side effects are summarized in the table:
|Durg Name||Drug Type & Use||Common Side efects|
|memantine||N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist prescribed to treat symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s||Dizziness, headache, constipation, confusion|
|galantamine||Cholinesterase inhibitor prescribed to treat symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s||Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite|
|rivastigmine||Cholinesterase inhibitor prescribed to treat symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s (patch is also for severe Alzheimer's)||Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, muscle weakness|
|donepezil||Cholinesterase inhibitor prescribed to treat symptoms of mild to moderate, and moderate to severe Alzheimer’s||Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea|
-Written by Devesh Chaudhari