Alzheimer's Disease | Treatment

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Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?

No, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, treatment may focus on the following:

  • Slowing the progression of symptoms such as memory loss.
  • Addressing behavior changes such as depression and aggression.
  • Helping to relieve other symptoms, such as sleep problems.

What medicines are used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

The different medicines your doctor may prescribe to treat Alzheimer’s disease symptoms are listed below. It’s important to remember that these medicines do not stop the disease. They may not work for every person or may help for only a short time.

Medicines for memory

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Rivastigmine and galantamine can treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Donepezil is approved to treat mild to severe Alzheimer’s. Typical side effects of these drugs include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The FDA has also approved another cholinesterase inhibitor, tacrine, to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but doctors don’t often prescribe it because it can cause more serious side effects.
  • Memantine is approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It may be used alone or in addition to one of the cholinesterase inhibitors listed above. It may cause side effects such as dizziness and headaches.

Medicines for behavior

  • Depending on the behavioral problems and the severity of the problems, your doctor may also choose to prescribe drugs such as pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines, sleep medicines, or antipsychotics.

 

What should I know about clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies that help doctors and scientists determine whether a new drug or treatment is safe and effective. During a clinical trial, patients volunteer to receive the new treatment and give the researchers permission to study them. Right now, researchers are trying hard to find new ways to treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease. If you think you might want to volunteer to be part of a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease treatments, talk to your family doctor.

What about non-drug treatments?

Drugs don’t always help relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Non-drug treatments for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease often include managing your loved one’s environment and establishing a routine to help reduce stress and anxiety. Read “Caring for a Relative Who Has Dementia” to learn more. 

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 08/12
Created: 04/12

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