More than 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Patients live for an average of eight years after the initial diagnosis, and for most, the thought of developing the disease is a dire prospect. But while there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatment options available that can hinder the progression of the disease and help patients maintain a higher quality of life.
Medication: The two FDA-approved drug options – cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine – help treat the main symptoms of the disease: memory loss and confusion. While the drugs are not able to prevent the decay of brain cells, they can function as stabilizers, temporarily preventing symptoms. Both medications are often prescribed together, along with vitamin E supplements. Current research and clinical trials aim at developing drugs that not only treat the symptoms of the disease but also its overall progression. There are always ongoing studies testing various treatment options, with over fifty NIH-sponsored trials related to Alzheimer’s being funded today. One of the drugs that has recently been in the news, IvIg, aims to treat the build-up of amyloid in the brain. Other studies focus on Alzheimer’s link with diabetes and high cholesterol. Researchers are always looking for new subjects, and the importance of participation in these trials cannot be overstated.
Other treatments: The behavioral manifestations of the disease are varied, with irritability and depression being most common. Non-drug treatments aim at analyzing what is triggering such conduct from their environment. While the symptoms are a result of the biological changes that occur, external stimuli can play a major role in the expression of those changes. One of the first aspects of life impacted by Alzheimer’s is sleep quality, so maintaining a daily schedule and staying away from stimulants such as caffeine can give a patient the best possible chance to cope with the disease. Other products, such as herbal remedies and dietary supplements, are being examined, but so far no definitive proof of their effectiveness has been found beyond individual experiences.
Alzheimer’s disease undoubtedly changes a person’s life, and coping with its effects is a daily struggle for both the patient and their loved ones. By examining all possible treatment options available, patients can retain control over their lives and perhaps learn to adjust to the changes it brings on.