Written by Josh Horsman
Dementia is a condition that has a truly global impact. We all know someone who lives with or who lived with Alzheimer's Disease, Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, or one of the other conditions which comes under the umbrella term. Perhaps you have Dementia yourself. Whatever your experience with the condition, you will know that there is not yet a known cure for Dementia.
However, the good news is that there are several available prescription medications which have proven effective in alleviating the symptoms of Dementia, at least to some degree. These medications can improve the quality of life for Dementia patients and enable them to maintain their daily lives for longer.
Here’s our guide to the most common medications for treating Dementia:
These prescription drugs target the primary symptoms of Dementia, namely: Memory-loss, poor judgement, impaired thinking skills, confusion and the other symptoms related to cognitive function. There are two main types of these drugs: ‘Cholinesterase Inhibitors’ and ‘Memantine’.
Cholinesterase Inhibitors: This term describes a range of medications which may be prescribed by your doctor to counter the impaired memory and judgement skills caused by Dementia. These medications work by boosting levels of useful chemicals involved in these key cognitive processes, lessening the harmful impact of Dementia on everyday brain functions. Although usually used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, they can also be effective in treating symptoms of Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease.
Notable cholinesterase Inhibitors include Donepezil, Rivastigmine and Galantamine.
Memantine: Often known by the brand name ‘Namenda’, Memantine is a drug which helps to regulate the activity of ‘Glutamate’ in the brain and ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Glutamate is a chemical messenger which is essential for key brain functions like memory and learning, but Dementia prevents it from functioning well. Memantine enables the brain to use Glutamate more effectively and this can improve or control symptoms of memory-loss and cognitive decline.
(For more information on Memantine, see our blog: https://bit.ly/2IHOXrm)
As well as the primary symptoms of cognitive decline, people living with Dementia often experience a range of secondary symptoms resulting from their condition. These include: Sleeplessness, agitation, behavioral changes and depression amongst others. The good news is that each of these symptoms on their own are commonly treated with prescription medication and this is no different for those with Dementia. Antidepressants are safe for use by Dementia patients to combat symptoms of depression, while a class of drugs called ‘non-benzodiazepines’ are commonly prescribed to alleviate the sleep disturbances familiar to many people living with various types of Dementia. It is even possible for behavioral changes that can be caused by Dementia to be treated with prescription medication, meaning that even the most problematic of Dementia symptoms can be controlled through medication. While this is surely great comfort for both carers and patients, it must be stressed that prescription medication for secondary symptoms of Dementia is typically only a short-term option. Instead, it is important to consider all available non-drug approaches before turning to medication. There are various therapies which have proven effective at alleviating the secondary symptoms of Dementia in many cases.
If you, or a loved-one, live with Dementia and believe that you may benefit from prescription medication, speak to your Doctor who will be able to talk you through all your available options for both drug and non-drug treatments.