Memory loss medication for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
50 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. These forms of degenerative brain disease result in memory loss. Some forms are gradual, some severe, but all forms of dementia are not a normal part of aging. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, but there are some medications that can help fight early stages of memory loss.
Types of memory loss medications
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are some drugs that can help temporarily treat memory loss. Medications work by altering or protecting chemicals in the brain to preserve function as long as possible. However, there still aren’t any drugs that stop the destruction of synapses and neurons caused by Alzheimer’s. The medications we do have don’t always work for everyone and are only a temporary solution that is most effective for early to moderate stages of the disease. There are two main types of medication to manage memory loss: cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
Cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne) are best to manage memory, thinking, language, and judgment. Cholinesterase inhibitors are often prescribed to treat early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia because they slow the worsening of symptoms.
Cholinesterase inhibitors work by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain important for memory and learning. Keeping acetylcholine levels high in the brain can help slow Alzheimer’s progression but the drug does not prevent brain cell death, so as the disease progresses there are fewer brain cells to create acetylcholine. The drug is most often a pill and side effects can include nausea and diarrhea.
Memantine, or Namenda, is best for improving memory, attention, reason, and the ability to complete simple tasks. Often prescribed to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, memantine can also be combined with donepezil (Namzaric).
Memantine works by managing glutamate, which is a chemical in the brain that is used for a variety of functions, like memory and even learning. Memantine is taken as a pill or a syrup and can cause some side effects like headache, constipation, or dizziness.
Researchers understand our brains and how Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain more than ever before. While we do not have a cure yet, we may be close to new treatments to prevent or slow the disease. If you or a loved one has been prescribed one of these memory loss medications, visit perks.optum.com to find savings on those medications.