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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Dementia - Medications

Doctors use medicines to treat dementia in the following ways:

  • To correct a condition that's causing dementia, such as thyroid replacement for hypothyroidism, vitamins for lack of vitamin B12, or antibiotics for infections
  • To maintain mental functioning for as long as possible when dementia cannot be reversed
  • To prevent further strokes in people who have dementia caused by stroke (vascular dementia)
  • To manage mood or behavior problems, such as depression, insomnia, hallucinations, and agitation

Medicine choices

Medicines to help maintain mental function

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine.  
    • These drugs were developed to treat Alzheimer's disease, but they may be tried in other dementias, especially vascular dementia.
    • It is not clear how long these medicines will work.
    • Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
  • Memantine. This medicine is used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, but may also help with mild to moderate vascular dementia.

Medicines to help control mood or behavior problems

Many behavior problems can be managed without medicines. For more information, see Home Treatment.

In some cases, the doctor may prescribe:

Medicines to prevent future strokes

  • The doctor may prescribe medicines for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, since these conditions are risk factors for vascular dementia. These drugs can't reverse existing dementia, but they may prevent future strokes and heart disease that can lead to further brain damage.

For more information, see the topics:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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