The most disturbing thing about Alzheimer’s disease is the fact that there is no cure. What’s even more troubling is that there’s no knowledge why the buildup of plaque and tangles in the brain actually cause brain damage at the cellular level.
Simply put, the answer to a cure for Alzheimer’s lies in understanding the impact that these protein deposits have on brain cells especially since these deposits have been observed to occur even in a normal person’s brain.
Despite the lack of progress in the quest for a cure, there are drugs that are USDA approved and which treat the symptoms if only to slow down the effects of the disease but, as you already know by now, not stop it completely.
The most significant symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of memory and one’s to reasoning and make sound judgments. These symptoms get worse over time, and which is when patients move from the mild to the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The patient’s ability to even carry out basic functions begins to reduce greatly, and thanks to these drugs which slow down this continuous decay of one’s ability to remember or think, the patient will be able to remain independent for a much longer period of time.
Almost all of these drugs prescribed during the mild and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease are cholinesterase inhibitors, and are known to improve memory and thinking because of their function which prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine.
Unfortunately, this type of medication loses its effect since the brain produced acetylcholine in lesser quantities as the disease progresses from the mild to the moderate stage. Some of these drugs are Razadyne® (galantamine), Exelon® (rivastigmine), and Aricept® (donepezil) and Cognex® (tacrine) of which the last of the lot is rarely administered to patients because of safety concerns with the side effects involved.
Switching between these drugs won’t necessarily improve anything as they, as mentioned earlier, work to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. However, it’s been observed that patients, in most cases, tend to respond better to one drug better than others.
Inevitably, the patient will “progress” to either the moderate or severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease. In doing so, they will struggle with memory, thinking and judgment and daily functions but at its worst, will remain bedridden until death.
For this, Namenda® (memantine) or the recently approved Aricept®, which are N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists, is administered to patients during this stage. It has been found that the patient’s ability to maintain daily functions stays for much longer than those who are in the same stage but are not being treated with this medication.
The reason for this is because the medication regulates the production of glutamate in large amounts in order to stave off certain brain cell death for a little while longer.
Usually, patients are given a combination of both cholinesterase inhibitors and N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists during this stage with a careful increase of dosages depending on whether there are any side effects or not.