Written by Josh Horsman
Memantine is a prescription drug that is used to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). You may be prescribed the drug by your doctor as part of your care following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Memantine is typically administered in the form of a pill, however it may also come as an extended-release capsule or an oral solution. The commonly prescribed brand-name drug ‘Namenda’ is a drug-form of Memantine.
What does it Do?
While there is no cure for AD and currently no treatment capable of reversing the condition, Memantine does work to ease, control and often improve the associated symptoms of cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be caused by excessive levels of calcium building up in the brain and causing damage. The brain of a person with AD contains higher than average levels of ‘Glutamate’, a neurotransmitter, which brings the calcium into the brain cells. Memantine, however, sticks to the cells and acts as a barrier to block the Glutamate and prevent the build-up of calcium which, in turn, enables the brain to function more effectively.
How Effective is It?
Whilst Memantine is considered a relatively effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, it is not universally successful in treating symptoms, results will vary case-by-case. Some people will notice improvements in their condition, while others will find that their condition stays the same rather than regressing further. In some cases there will be no noticeable effects.
However for those cases in which the drug proves effective, improvements in brain function may manifest in: Ability to perform daily tasks such as dressing or bathing, memory, behaviour, communication skills and speed of thinking.
It is important to note, however, that the drug is only prescribed to, and effective for, those with moderate to severe AD.
Are there any Side Effects?
As with any prescription drug, taking Memantine comes with the potential risk of a range of side-effects. However Memantine is not considered a high-risk drug and only a small number of people who take it will experience any noticeable problems. If any do occur, they are likely to be only mild-moderate and can include hallucination, confusion, dizziness, headaches and tiredness. Anyone experiencing side-effects of any kind when taking Memantine should discuss these with their doctor.
While there is not yet a treatment that can claim to stop or reverse the effects of Dementia, Memantine is proven to be relatively successful in enabling many of those who take it to manage their condition more effectively and maintain independence and the ability to perform some key daily tasks for longer. The side-effects of the drug are also mild enough as to make it a low-risk treatment option for those with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. It can also be used alongside other drugs and treatments as part of a treatment plan. If you are living with AD and believe Memantine may be a treatment you should consider, then be sure to discuss this with your doctor who will able to tell you if it could help your condition.