Dementia is significant loss of cognitive functions such as memory, judgment, attention, and abstract thinking. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disease. It affects 5 million Americans, and millions more worldwide.
Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years old or older, and the risk increases with age. People age 85 years and older are especially at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may include:
- Loss of concentration
- Language problems
- Confusion about time and place
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of insight
- Impaired movement and coordination
- Mood and behavior changes
- Apathy and depression
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Drug therapy aims to slow disease progression and treat symptoms associated with the disease. The benefit from drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease is often small, and patients and their families may not notice benefit.
Patients and their families need to discuss with their doctors whether drug therapy can help improve behavior or functional abilities. They also need to discuss whether or not drugs should be prescribed early in the course of the disease or delayed.
The following drugs are commonly prescribed for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Donepezil (Aricept)
- Rivastigmine (Exelon)
- Galantamine (Razadyne)
- Memantine (Namenda)
Review Date: 06/22/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.