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Drug Treatment for Dementia Sufferers

Aug 17, 2007
Sadly, the symptoms of dementia can strike at any age, and the syndrome isn't one strictly associated with the elderly. Dementia is not really an illness of its own - it's a group of symptoms related to the decline of cognitive functions; and the underlying causes of the impairments vary. Strokes, infection and tumour's can all damage the brain and its exceptional functioning, reducing favorite or simple tasks to ones that, with dementia, become a daily struggle.

The first thing to note regarding dementia and medication is that researchers and doctors have yet to find effective pharmacological treatments they are satisfied with. Researchers continue to perform clinical trials and testing, but the results to date have been frustrating, limited by short-duration action or the need for constant medical monitoring. There are, however, some drugs available that do help to ease or alleviate dementia symptoms.

A Quick Look at Commonly-Prescribed Medicines

One drug focuses on acetylcholine, a chemical substance in our brains needed by nerves to communicate with each other. By preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine (a normal human function), medication can allow the substance to be present longer, which does seem to help with mild symptoms of dementia, such as in the case of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The downfall of these types of medication is that sufferer's improvement isn't very dramatic or permanent, and stopping medication can produce a sharp decline in cognitive ability, so it must be continued indefinitely.

Another medication that shows more promise for slowing the progressive symptoms of moderate to severe dementia is an NMDA blocker. These blockers reduce over-stimulation in certain chemicals of the brain, which is thought to contribute to eventual nerve cell death. NMDA-blocker medications can improve daily activity and help with the caregiver's tasks involved in caring for dementia sufferers and does produce moderate results.

Antipsychotic drugs are another alternative to helping relieve dementia symptoms of psychosis such as aggression and combative states, which helps to provide a level of safety for caregivers. Antidepressant drugs are often prescribed to help with feelings of sadness and depression dementia sufferers frequently exhibit. A third alternative, anti-anxiety medication, is slowly being set aside despite dementia sufferers showing symptoms of anxiety, as the drugs tend to either increase anxiety or provide too much sedation.

While dementia sufferers and caregivers would certainly like to see more effective medication to treat their symptoms, researchers have yet to find drugs that show more than mild to moderate results. The downfalls of the drugs on the market make the choice of whether to medicate or not one to consider carefully, and caregivers are urged to seek out more information on pharmacological options before making a decision.
About the Author
Andi Michaels writes regularly for Alzheimers And Dementia where you can read many more articles on Alzheimers . Also go here for more informative articles on dementia care and much more.
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