Alzheimer’s disease is such a complex disease that there is little likelihood of finding one treatment or cure. Scientists are focusing on many aspects of the disease as they seek solutions. The following are areas of focus for current treatments: helping people maintain mental function; managing behavioral symptoms; and slowing, delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Helping People with Alzheimer’s Disease Maintain Mental Function
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Donepezil (Aricept*), rivastigmine, (Exelon*), and galantamine (Razadyne*) are approved to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. (donepezil can be used for severe cases as well). Memantine (Namenda*) is approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. They work by regulating the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons, the neurotransmitters. In many cases they work on thinking, memory and speaking skills and may help with certain behavioral problems. The effects do not last, because these drugs do not change the underlying disease process, which continues. Their effectiveness may last for only a few months or a few years.
Managing Behavioral Symptoms
Sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, anger and depression are common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Not every patient experiences them, however. There are many other behaviors that patients may exhibit such as changes in personality or paranoia. Scientists are learning why these behaviors occur, as they research new treatments, both drug and non-drug, to better manage them. This research will allow people with Alzheimer’s disease to live more comfortable lives and their make their care easier for caregivers
Slowing, Delaying or Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists today are looking beyond treating the symptoms of the disease and are focusing on addressing the underlying disease process. They are looking at clinical trials for many possible interventions, such as immunization therapy, cardiovascular treatments, antioxidants, cognitive training and physical activity.