There is no cure for AD. The goals of treatment are:
- Slow the progression of the disease (although this is difficult to do)
- Manage symptoms, such as behavior problems, confusion, and sleep problems
- Change your home environment so you can better perform daily activities
- Support family members and other caregivers
Medicines are used to help slow down the rate at which symptoms become worse. The benefit from these drugs is usually small. You and your family may not notice much of a change.
Before using these medicines, ask the doctor or nurse:
- What are the potential side effects? Is the medicine worth the risk?
- When is the best time, if any, to use these medicines?
Medicines for AD include:
- Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Razadyne, formerly called Reminyl). Side effects include stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
- Memantine (Namenda). Possible side effects include agitation or anxiety.
Other medicines may be needed to control aggressive, agitated, or dangerous behaviors. Examples include haloperidol, risperidone, and quetiapine. These are usually given in very low doses due to the risk of side effects including an increased risk of death.
It may be necessary to stop any medications that make confusion worse. Such medicines may include painkillers, cimetidine, central nervous system depressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and others. Never change or stop taking any medicines without first talking to your doctor.
Some people believe certain vitamins and herbs may help prevent or slowdown AD.
- There is no strong evidence that Folate (vitamin B6), vitamin B12, and vitamin E prevent AD or slows the disease once it occurs.
- High-quality studies have not shown that ginkgo biloba lowers the chance of developing dementia. DO NOT use ginkgo if you take blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin) or a class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
If you are considering any drugs or supplements, you should talk to your doctor first. Remember that herbs and supplements available over the counter are NOT regulated by the FDA.