The drug galantamine is most commonly used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Galantamine can also help with other conditions involving memory impairment. It helps to increase the mind’s ability to think and store memories by compensating for a deficiency of a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain. Glantamine can also help to slow down the loss of these functions. The drug is intended to be a treatment and not a cure for the symptoms of the diseases it treats.
Of the memory impairment diseases besides Alzheimer’s that are treated by galantamine, vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, is the most common. Vascular dementia usually develops when a patient has had one or many strokes. The disease primarily harms brain function through the development of several lesions on the brain. It is an irreversible condition and the drug can only temporarily restore and slow the decline of brain function.
Galantamine comes from a class of drugs known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It works by increasing the amount of a chemical known as acetylcholine (ACh) that naturally occurs in the brain. It is also prescribed to help keep the natural and synthetic supply of ACh from declining as quickly as it would without intervention. Galantamine is especially effective during the early stages of the Alzheimer's disease. Once the disease progresses, the effectiveness of the drug tends to decline.
The drug comes in tablet, extended-release capsule, and liquid forms. Galantamine capsules are typically prescribed to be taken once a day, while the tablets and liquid are taken twice daily. Doctors usually recommend that the drug be taken with food and water in order to avoid stomach upset. Galantamine treatment typically starts with a small dosage which is slowly increased over the course of several weeks, depending on the patient’s reaction to the drug.
The most common side effects of galantamine are mild and usually only need to be discussed with a doctor if they persist or become more severe. They include stomachache, lack of appetite, weight loss, and nausea. Some patients may also experience vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, and uncharacteristic tiredness. Other reported side effects of taking the drug include a headache, dizziness, depression, and sleep difficulties.
Less common, but more serious side effects of taking galantamine include difficulty, pain, or burning while urinating. Other reported symptoms include a slow heartbeat, seizures, fainting, or difficulty breathing fully. Blood in the urine or stools or bloody vomit are all serious side effects. Stools may also appear tarry and black. All of these side effects should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.