A severe neurological condition, Alzheimer's disease affects several necessary functions, such as memory and language. As the disease progresses, patients lose more of these abilities, leading up to their inability to care for themselves. Although no cure exists for Alzheimer's disease, several treatment options do exist. MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, points out that the goals of Alzheimer's disease treatment include slowing the progression disease, managing the symptoms of the disease, supporting family members and making changes to the home environment that helps the patient.
Two groups of medications exist for Alzheimer's disease: cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Each of these medications work on different neurotransmitters. For example, cholinesterase inhibitors target the neurotransmitters acetylcholine. These medications work by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, which helps with memory and learning. Examples of cholinesterase inhibitors galantamine, donepezil and rivastigmine. The MayoClinic.com points out that about 50 percent of Alzheimer's disease patients who take cholinesterase inhibitors do not have improvement in symptoms. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, indigestion, muscle cramps and a loss of appetite.
The other medication option is memantine, which the MayoClinic.com explains “protects brain cells from damage caused by the chemical messenger glutamate.” Memantine may help patients who have moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Sometimes, doctors may give patients both memantine and a cholinesterase inhibitor. Side effects include anxiety, dizziness and agitation.
In addition to taking medications, Alzheimer's disease patients may need to stop using other types of medications, which may worsen certain symptoms of the disorder, such as confusion.
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