Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

A Treatment Overview of Alzheimer's Disease

Is There a Cure for Alzheimer's Disease?

Dementia is a condition of mental decline that causes progressive memory impairment and problems with learning, judgment, communication, and quality of life. Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder, is the most common form of dementia. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease and no treatment to reverse or halt its progression, there are medicines available that can help treat symptoms in some people with Alzheimer's disease. If Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed  early, it can be managed at home. Health care providers may also use other medicines to help manage other troubling symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, including depression, sleeplessness, and behavioral problems such as agitation and aggression.

Planning and medical/social management can help ease the burden on both patients and family members. Exercise, good nutrition, activities, and social interaction are important. A calm, structured environment also may help the person with Alzheimer's disease to continue functioning as independently as possible.

Recommended Related to Alzheimer's

Hospice Care and Alzheimer's Disease

Health care providers throughout the United States are making a concerted effort to improve hospice care and palliative treatment in terminally ill patients with Alzheimer's disease. Palliative care is treatment designed to relieve or reduce the intensity of uncomfortable symptoms without trying to cure the underlying disease. Palliative treatment may involve the use of medicines or surgery to control symptoms such as pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. The primary care doctor will help guide...

Read the Hospice Care and Alzheimer's Disease article > >

How Is Alzheimer's Disease Treated?

Your doctor will determine the best treatment for an Alzheimer's case based on various factors, including:

  • The patient’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • The patient’s tolerance for specific medicines and therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • The patient and his or her caregiver’s opinions or preferences

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Alzheimer's Disease?

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne). Cholinesterase inhibitors curb the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain important for memory and learning. These types of medications help increase the levels of acetylcholine in the brain. These drugs may slow the progression of symptoms for about half of people taking them for a limited time, on average 6 to 12 months.
  • Aricept is the only treatment approved by the FDA for all stages of Alzheimer’s disease: mild, moderate, and severe. It is available as tablets to swallow or tablets to dissolve in the mouth. Exelon is approved for use in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia and is available as a skin patch, capsules, and liquid form. Razadyne (formerly Reminyl) is also approved for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia and is available as an extended-release capsule, immediate-release tablet, and liquid forms. Common side effects are usually mild for these medications and include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
  • Namenda. Namenda is approved to treat moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease. Namenda works by a different mechanism than other Alzheimer's treatments; it is thought to play a protective role in the brain by regulating the activity of a different brain chemical called glutamate. Glutamate also plays a role in learning and memory. Brain cells in people with Alzheimer’s disease release too much glutamate. Namenda helps regulate glutamate activity. Namenda is the only drug for Alzheimer’s that works this way. It may improve mental function and performance of daily activities for some people. Namenda may have more benefit when used with Aricept, Exelon, or Razadyne. Side effects of Namenda include tiredness, dizziness, confusion, constipation, and headache.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

alzheimer's disease warning signs
ARTICLE
Alzheimers Overview
SLIDESHOW
 
Best Memory Boosting Games
ARTICLE
mri scan of human brain
QUIZ
 
senior man
ARTICLE
daughter and father
ARTICLE
 
Making Diagnosis
Article
Colored mri of brain
ARTICLE
 
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
VIDEO
senior woman with lost expression
ARTICLE
 
Woman comforting ailing mother
ARTICLE
Alzheimers Dementia
ARTICLE