January 30, 2017

2 Common Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is a condition which categorizes many brain disorders that cause the loss of intellectual and social skills. Although there are numerous conditions that fall under the classification of dementia, the most common disease has been Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s accounts for about 60-80% of the cases of dementia [1].  Furthermore, Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition in which, the patient has difficulty performing important mental functions. In the beginning, when a patient is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, patients usually experience minor symptoms such as mild confusion and memory loss. However when the disease becomes more severe, patients may suffer dramatic personality changes and severe memory loss.

Although researchers are continually conducting studies to get a better understanding of this disease, it can roughly be attributed to a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors which are known to impact the brain. Since the degeneration of the brain is the primary cause of this disease, studying these factors in greater depth allows one to understand the development of this condition.

When dealing with this condition it is common for a person to experience loss of memory or cognition. There is no way to reverse degeneration, but there are two common drugs that are approved to treat these cognitive symptoms:

Cholinesterase inhibitors:

Function:

These drugs specifically target the brain by providing it with neurotransmitters that are depleted by the presence of Alzheimer’s disease [2]. Neurotransmitters, in this case acetylcholine, are brain cells which are exhausted when a patient exhibits brain degeneration. This drug may help lessen or stabilize symptoms by affecting neurotransmitters and slow the degeneration process.

Side Effects:

It is best to discuss side effects of these medications with a medical professional as they will have a better knowledge of a patient’s medical history. Possible side effects include the loss of appetite, nausea, and sleep disturbances.

Memantines:

Function:

In order to better understand the function of this drug, it helps to understand the function of glutamate in your brain. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps permit calcium to enter cells – an important component involved in learning and memory. A person with Alzheimer’s disease will have excess glutamate, which leads to chronic overexposure to calcium and subsequent cell damage. Memantines help by partially blocking the receptors that allow calcium into the cells.

Side Effects:

Constipation, dizziness and headaches are noteworthy side effects that may result when taking this medication.

Sources:

[1] What is Alzheimer’s? Alzhiemer’s Association. Retrieved from: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp

[2] Medications for Memory Loss. Alzhiemer’s Association. Retrieved from: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_standard_prescriptions.asp

 

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