Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative illness which affects the cognitive functions of the brain. This means that as the disease progresses, the person suffering from Alzheimer’s may end up losing his abilities to reason, learn, retain memory, or even make judgments. In time, he will not even be able to do simple everyday tasks that we take for granted. The symptoms just become worse as time goes, ending inevitably in the death of the patient.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are several Alzheimer’s medications that may provide treatment for some of the symptoms of this brain disorder. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved five prescription drugs. These Alzheimer’s medications can treat the symptoms of the disease, providing patients with comfort, dignity, and independence for a longer period of time. By doing this, these drugs will benefit not only the patient but the caregivers as well, serving as both encouragement and assistance in caring for their patients.
It should be noted, however, that these Alzheimer’s medications will not stop the disease itself.
An interesting finding by scientists involved in Alzheimer’s research is the substance called acetylcholine, which is a chemical released by the brain. Acetylcholine is said to be important for memory and thinking and that its breakdown is part of the reason why Alzheimer’s disease develops in an individual. Thus, the aim of scientists was to find an Alzheimer’s medication that could somehow prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. That substance was called cholinesterase inhibitors.
Cholinesterase inhibitors have the ability to delay or prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from becoming worse for a limited time. In addition, it may also help control some behavioral symptoms, such as withdrawal from human contact and the environment, which Alzheimer’s patients exhibit during the later stages of the disease.
From the five Alzheimer’s medications approved by the FDA, four of them are considered cholinesterase inhibitors. They are prescribed to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. These medications include:
- Razadyne (galantamine)
- Exelon (rivastigmine)
- Aricept (donepezil)
- Cognex (tacrine)
N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) Antagonist
The above four drugs only work during the early stages of Alzheimer’s. However, if the disease is already in its moderate to severe stages, treatment would require the introduction of a fifth medication, known as Namenda (memantine). This Alzheimer’s medication is an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist and is said to delay the progression of some of the symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Namenda may allow the patients to continue to perform their daily normal functions a little longer.
More research is being done to understand Alzheimer’s disease and what causes it. It is inarguable that the deeper our insight into this disease is, the closer we are to finding its cure.