What is Alzheimer's disease?
is a progressive condition that damages
areas of the brain involved in memory, intelligence, judgment, language, and
behavior. It is the most common form of mental decline, or
dementia, in older adults. Symptoms include
- Significant memory loss, such as forgetting
how to drive or how to tell time.
- Problems with language, such as
not being able to think of words.
- Personality changes, such as
becoming aggressive when your personality is
- Confusion or becoming disoriented, such as not
knowing where you are or not recognizing family members or
- An inability to perform daily tasks, such as not being
able to unload a dishwasher or pay the bills.
What medicines are used to treat Alzheimer's disease?
The medicines most often used to treat moderate symptoms of Alzheimer's
cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil (Aricept)
and galantamine (Razadyne).
Memantine (Namenda) can be used to treat moderate to
severe symptoms of confusion and memory loss from Alzheimer's disease. It works
differently than cholinesterase inhibitors. But like cholinesterase inhibitors,
it does not prevent Alzheimer's disease from progressing.
Other medicines, such as tranquilizers, may be used to reduce anxiety,
agitation or hostile behavior, sleep problems, or other similar
What are the side effects of these medicines?
general, most people seem to tolerate the medicines very well. The most common
side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting,
indigestion, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Less common
side effects include insomnia, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Side effects tend to
be mild and usually go away within a few weeks after starting treatment with
Common side effects of memantine are mild and
include dizziness, confusion, headache, and constipation. Memantine should not
be used by people who have kidney problems.
sometimes cause drowsiness.
Close monitoring and regular
reevaluation of the severity of Alzheimer's symptoms are very important during
treatment with medicine. As the disease progresses and symptoms change, your
medication needs often change. If you are a caregiver for someone with
Alzheimer's disease, be alert for adverse drug reactions or side effects that
further impair the person's ability to function.
How can behavior problems be treated without medicines?
Before deciding to manage behavior problems with a medicine, try to
figure out what is causing the behavior. Some behaviors, such as agitation,
wandering, and becoming restless and agitated in the early evening (sundowning), do not always respond well to treatment
with medicine. Understanding what is causing the behavior and taking steps to
manage or change it can sometimes be helpful. It is worthwhile to explore the
cause of behavior problems both before and during the time you are taking
If you need more information, see the topic