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Treatment for Alzheimer's and Dementia

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.

Medications for Memory Loss

Although current medications cannot cure Alzheimer’s or stop it from progressing, they may help lessen symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a limited time.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer's disease.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together. Some doctors also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer's disease.

Medications for behavioral symptoms

If non-drug approaches fail after being applied consistently, introducing medications may be appropriate for individuals with severe symptoms or who have the potential to harm themselves or others. While prescription medications can be effective in some situations, they must be used carefully and are most effective when combined with non-drug approaches.

When considering use of medications, it is important to understand that no drugs are specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat behavioral and psychiatric dementia symptoms. Some of the examples discussed below represent “off label” use, a medical practice in which a physician may prescribe a drug for a different purpose than the ones for which it is approved.



There are many other treatments available to combat the other symptoms of Alzheimer's and Dementia, for more information please visit www.alz.org.

All content for this page was contributed by www.alz.org.