Alzheimers Disease Treatments

No one wants to hear “You’ve got Alzheimer’s disease,” a progressive memory-robbing disorder that doesn’t have a cure. But the diagnosis may not be quite as grim as it was in the past

There are now a handful of medications that can help ease symptoms, like memory loss and confusion. What’s more, the evidence suggests that there are certain lifestyle changes that might help, and there are other types of treatments that address specific symptoms (rather than the underlying cause of the disease) that may make life a little easier for people with Alzheimer’s.

While the number of treatments is limited—and far from a perfect solution—“there is value in getting the proper care,” said James Hendrix, Ph.D., director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago. Treating symptoms can give people more time, allowing them to make decisions about their future while they still can, he explained.

Scientists continue to explore potential disease pathways to treat and prevent this insidious brain disorder, which affects more than 5 million Americans.

Here’s a rundown of current therapies, lifestyle changes, and promising treatments on the horizon that could help people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Approved for treating mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer’s symptoms, donepezil doesn’t stop the disease. But it does prevent the breakdown of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, believed to be important for memory, thinking, and reasoning.

This medicine comes as a once-daily tablet, so it’s easy for patients to take and doctors to adjust the dosage.

“You can start a patient on 5 milligrams a day and after several weeks move them up to 10 milligrams,” said Gregory Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky and a neurologist at the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Side effects include gastrointestinal (GI) problems, like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other potential side effects include muscle cramps, fatigue, and weight loss.