Doctors use medicines to treat
dementia in the following ways:
- To correct a condition that's causing dementia, such as
thyroid replacement for
hypothyroidism, vitamins for lack of vitamin B12, or
antibiotics for infections
- To maintain mental functioning for as
long as possible when dementia cannot be reversed
- To prevent further strokes in people who have dementia caused by stroke (vascular dementia)
- To manage
mood or behavior problems, such as depression, insomnia,
hallucinations, and agitation
Medicines to help
maintain mental function
- Cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil (Aricept),
galantamine (Reminyl), and rivastigmine (Exelon).
- These drugs were developed to treat Alzheimer's disease, but they may be tried in other dementias, especially vascular dementia.2
- It is not clear
how long these medicines will work.
- Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.3
- Memantine (Namenda). This medicine is used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, but may also help with mild to moderate vascular dementia.3
Medicines to help control mood or behavior problems
Medicines to prevent future strokes
- The doctor may prescribe medicines for high blood
pressure and high cholesterol, since these conditions are risk factors for
vascular dementia.4 These drugs can't reverse
existing dementia, but they may prevent future strokes and heart disease that
can lead to further brain damage.
For more information, see the topics:
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Peter J. Whitehouse, MD - Neurology
June 23, 2011
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