Answers to Common Alzheimer’s Disease Questions

Premier Health providers answer frequently asked questions about Alzheimer’s disease and how to live with and manage the condition.

What are the treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease?

Dr. Larry Lawhorne discusses treatment options for Alzheimer’s. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The treatment options for Alzheimer's disease are in some ways limited. There is one class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors that have been available for some time. People with Alzheimer’s lose a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. An enzyme called cholinesterase breaks down acetylcholine. The medicines prevent the cholinesterase from breaking down the acetylcholine in the brain. Early in Alzheimer's disease, when enough brain cells are making that chemical, the medicine works. Later in the disease, when fewer brain cells are making acetylcholine, the medicine may not make much difference.

The other class of drugs protects damaged brain cells from further injury from glutamate, which is a normal chemical in the brain. The generic name is memantine. For some reason, glutamate attacks the brain cells injured by Alzheimer's disease and makes them die faster. Memantine protects the brain cells for a little bit longer. 

Neither of these medicines provides a cure. Most studies show they may slow down the progression of the disease. It’s important to talk with your physician about the particular type of dementia a loved one has in terms of how you approach the treatment.

    Source: Larry Lawhorne, MD, Wright State Physicians; National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association