Dementia is a condition in which a person’s mental and social characteristics are altered in a noticeable manner and interfere with normal function and behavior. There is no cure for dementia, but commonly used treatments may help to slow down symptom development or reduce symptoms to a more manageable level. The most common dementia treatments include drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors and a drug called memantine, which help to minimize symptoms related to memory; increase one’s ability to learn and process new information; improve self-confidence; reduce feelings of anxiety; and help alleviate other symptoms caused by abnormal brain activity. Additionally, other medications may be used to treat the underlying conditions that contribute to dementia, including heart conditions and blood clots.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are among the most commonly used dementia treatments. These drugs act on a chemical in the brain that affects a person’s memory and ability to exercise judgment. Drugs in this category work by boosting this chemical, which in turn, reduces the symptoms of dementia. Medications in this category do cause side effects, however. For example, a person who takes cholinesterase inhibitors may experience stomach upset and loose, more frequent bowels while taking it.
A drug called memantine is also frequently used as a dementia treatment. It works by helping to control glutamate, which is a chemical that influences a person’s brain function. In fact, memantine is sometimes used in combination with cholinesterase inhibitors to more effectively minimize or reduce symptoms. This drug may have the potential to cause a range of side effects, but the most common may be dizziness.
In many cases, treatments for underlying conditions may be used as part of a dementia treatment plan. For example, a person with a chronic heart or lung condition may not get as much oxygen to his brain as he needs. This lack of adequate oxygen may lead to dementia symptoms. By treating the chronic condition, a doctor may also effectively treat a patient for dementia. Among the underlying conditions a doctor may treat in addition to using specific dementia treatments are high blood pressure, blood clots, anxiety, and diabetes; even treating conditions like insomnia may help.
Common dementia treatments are typically used to slow or reduce such symptoms as decreased memory, communication problems, difficulty processing new information, paranoia, lack of confidence, and anxiety. In some cases, successful treatment is even helpful for stopping dementia from progressing any further. If dementia is caused by an underlying condition, however, it may even be possible to reverse it.