Which Medicines Are Used To Treat Alzheimers Disease
There is no cure for Alzheimers disease, but available medications temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and help with behavioral problems that may appear during the course of the disease.
Four medications representing two drug classes are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of Alzheimers disease. These drugs are the cholinesterase inhibitors and a NMDA antagonist.
Cholinesterase inhibitors. The cholinesterase inhibitors are all approved to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease . Cholinesterase inhibitors include:
These drugs work by blocking the action of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for destroying acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the chemicals that helps nerve cells communicate. Researchers believe that reduced levels of acetylcholine cause some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. By blocking the enzyme, these medications increase the concentration of acetylcholine in the brain. This increase is believed to help improve some memory problems and reduce some of the behavioral symptoms seen in patients with Alzheimers disease.
These medications do not cure Alzheimers disease or stop the progression of the disease. The most common side effects of these drugs are nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people may have loss of appetite, insomnia or bad dreams.
What Are The Early Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Now that we’ve discussed the scientific definitions, let’s turn to the warning signs. According to the experts at the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 major early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to watch out for, and they are as follows:
What Is The Outlook For People With Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease gets worse over time and is ultimately fatal. Persons with Alzheimers disease live, on average, four to eight years after diagnosis. Some patients can live as long as 20 years after diagnosis. The course of the disease varies from person to person.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/18/2019.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Symptoms of Alzheimers disease vary from person to person and worsen over time. Symptoms of the disease include:
- Memory loss. This is usually one of the first symptoms of Alzheimers disease.
- Putting objects in odd places
- Confusion about events, time and place
- Repeating questions
For more information on the stage of disease, click here.
Social And Economic Impact
Dementia has significant social and economic implications in terms of direct medical and social care costs, and the costs of informal care. In 2015, the total global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be US$ 818 billion, equivalent to 1.1% of global gross domestic product . The total cost as a proportion of GDP varied from 0.2% in low- and middle-income countries to 1.4% in high-income countries.
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What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease
People who get Alzheimer’s disease are usually older, but the disease isnât a normal part of aging. Scientists arenât sure why some people get it and others donât. But they do know that the symptoms it causes seem to come from two main types of nerve damage:
- Nerve cells get tangles, called neurofibrillary tangles.
- Protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques build up in the brain.
Researchers arenât sure what causes this damage or how it happens, but it could be a protein in blood called ApoE , which the body uses to move cholesterol in the blood.
There are a few types of ApoE that may be linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. It could be that certain forms of it cause brain damage. Some scientists think it plays a role in building the plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimerâs.
Whether or not ApoE partly causes Alzheimer’s, genes almost certainly play a role in the disease. Someone with a parent who had the disease is more likely to have it, too.
There is some evidence that people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol have a greater chance of getting Alzheimer’s. More rarely, head injuries may be a reason, too — the more severe they are, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.
Scientists are still studying many of these theories, but itâs clear that the biggest risks linked to Alzheimer’s disease are being older and having Alzheimer’s in your family.
What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
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Each Persons Journey Is Different
Each person has a unique health history. This health history is directly related to how AD will affect them. Its helpful, however, to know the statistics about average life expectancy, as well as how lifestyle and age can alter that length of time.
If you are a caretaker or were recently diagnosed with AD, you can find empowerment and courage in knowing how the condition tends to progress. This allows you to plan with your family and caretakers.
What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
Key Points About Early
Alzheimer disease commonly affects older people, but early-onset Alzheimer disease can affect people in their 30s or 40s.
It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Although there is no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better quality of life.
Stay healthy with a good diet and regular exercise.
Avoid alcohol and other substances that may affect memory, thinking, and behavior.
Physical Changes To Expect
Which symptoms you have and when they appear are different for everyone.
Some people have physical problems before serious memory loss.
In one study, people who walked slowly and had poor balance were more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the following 6 years.
Some of the changes you might experience are:
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Stiff muscles
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What Does Age Have To Do With It
The age you are diagnosed with AD may have the greatest impact on your life expectancy. The earlier you are diagnosed, the longer you may live. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have discovered that the average survival time for people diagnosed at age 65 is 8.3 years. The average life expectancy for people diagnosed at age 90 is 3.4 years.
Icipating In Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials
Everybody those with Alzheimers disease or MCI as well as healthy volunteers with or without a family history of Alzheimers may be able to take part in clinical trials and studies. Participants in Alzheimers clinical research help scientists learn how the brain changes in healthy aging and in Alzheimers. Currently, at least 270,000 volunteers are needed to participate in more than 250 active clinical trials and studies that are testing ways to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimers disease.
Volunteering for a clinical trial is one way to help in the fight against Alzheimers. Studies need participants of different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that results are meaningful for many people.
NIA leads the federal governments research efforts on Alzheimers. NIA-supported Alzheimers Disease Research Centers throughout the U.S. conduct a wide range of research, including studies of the causes, diagnosis, and management of the disease. NIA also sponsors the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, which is designed to accelerate and expand studies and therapies in Alzheimers and related dementias.
To learn more about Alzheimers clinical trials and studies:
- Talk to your health care provider about local studies that may be right for you.
Watch videos of participants in Alzheimers disease clinical trials talking about their experiences.
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How Much Time Can Treatment Add
Treatment will not prevent the progression of AD. It is also unclear if treatment can add time to a persons life. Ultimately, AD will progress and take its toll on the brain and body. As it progresses, symptoms and side effects will get worse.
However, a few medications may be able to slow the progression of AD at least for a short time. Treatment can also improve your quality of life and help treat symptoms. Talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
study identified several factors that affect a persons life expectancy. These include:
- Gender: A 2004 study found that men lived an average of 4.2 years after their initial diagnosis. Women were found to live an average of 5.7 years after their diagnosis.
- Severity of symptoms: People with significant motor impairment, such as a history of falls and a tendency to wander or walk away, had shorter life expectancies.
- Brain abnormalities: The study also detected a connection between brain and spinal cord abnormalities and the length of life.
- Other health problems: People with heart disease, a history of heart attack, or diabetes had shorter lifespans than patients without these complicating health factors.
Risk Factors And Prevention
Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people young onset dementia accounts for up to 9% of cases. Studies show that people can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additional risk factors include depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity.
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Risk Factors Beyond Longevity
Until now, the gap had been largely attributed to the longevity of women, since age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimers. Roberta Diaz Brinton, a University of Southern California professor who studies gender differences said, It is true that age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimers disease. But she went on to say, on average, women live four or five years longer than men and we know that Alzheimers is a disease that starts 20 years before the diagnosis.
Thus far, genetic studies have offered a startling account for the difference. Researchers from Stanford University studied over 8,000 people looking for a form of the gene ApoE-4, a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimers. They found that women who carry a copy of that particular gene variant were twice as likely to eventually develop Alzheimers as women without the gene. Men who had the gene were only at a slightly increased risk than men who did not have the gene. While it is not clear why the gene poses such a drastic increase in risk, Brinton believes it may be how the gene interacts with estrogen.
Another study suggests that it may be related to heart health. A study from Framingham, Massachusetts suggests that because men are more likely to die from heart disease in middle age, those men who live past 65 may have healthier hearts which may protect the brain from Alzheimers. These two diseases share many risk factors including high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.
What Is Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease, which affects some older people, is different from everyday forgetting. It is a condition that permanently affects the brain. Over time, the disease makes it harder to remember even basic stuff, like how to tie a shoe.
Eventually, the person may have trouble remembering the names and faces of family members or even who he or she is. This can be very sad for the person and his or her family.
It’s important to know that Alzheimer disease does not affect kids. It usually affects people over 65 years of age. Researchers have found medicines that seem to slow the disease down. And there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
Early Onset Alzheimers Disease
Although age is the main risk factor for Alzheimers disease, this is not just a condition that affects older adults.
According to the Alzheimers Association, early onset Alzheimers disease affects around 200,000 U.S. adults under the age of 65 years. Many people with this condition are in their 40s or 50s.
In many cases, doctors do not know why younger people develop this condition. Several rare genes can cause the condition. When there is a genetic cause, it is known as familial Alzheimers disease.
What Are The Stages Of Alzheimers
Alzheimers disease slowly gets worse over time. People with this disease progress at different rates and in several stages. Symptoms may get worse and then improve, but until an effective treatment for the disease itself is found, the persons ability will continue to decline over the course of the disease.
Early-stage Alzheimers is when a person begins to experience memory loss and other cognitive difficulties, though the symptoms appear gradual to the person and their family. Alzheimers disease is often diagnosed at this stage.
During middle-stage Alzheimers, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. People at this stage may have more confusion and trouble recognizing family and friends.
In late-stage Alzheimers, a person cannot communicate, is completely dependent on others for care, and may be in bed most or all the time as the body shuts down.
How long a person can live with Alzheimers disease varies. A person may live as few as three or four years if he or she is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger. Older adults with Alzheimers disease need to know their end-of-life care options and express their wishes to caregivers as early as possible after a diagnosis, before their thinking and speaking abilities fail.
Age When Diagnosis Is Determined
The age at diagnosis, too, is important because an older individual may already be frail and vulnerable to additional life-shortening accidents, diseases, or infections. Life expectancy after a diagnosis of dementia decreases with increasing age for example, an average person diagnosed with Alzheimers disease between ages 70 and 79 can expect to survive seven more years, while diagnosis after age 90 is associated with an expected survival of only 2.8 additional years.
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What To Expect In The Late Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
What To Expect In The Late Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
As Alzheimers advances into the later stages, caregivers and family members can expect quite a few new symptoms of the disease. Fortunately, being prepared now can help people better cope with the challenges of the late stages of Alzheimers.
Although the disease doesnt affect every person the same way, informed caregivers can often reduce later stage crisis. Read our list of the symptoms to expect in the late stages of Alzheimers to better prepare for tomorrow, today.
How Is Alzheimers Diagnosed And Treated
Doctors may ask questions about health, conduct cognitive tests, and carry out standard medical tests to determine whether to diagnose a person with Alzheimers disease. If a doctor thinks a person may have Alzheimers, they may refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment. Specialists may conduct additional tests, such as brain scans or lab tests of spinal fluid, to help make a diagnosis. These tests measure signs of the disease, such as changes in brain size or levels of certain proteins.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are several medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help manage some symptoms of the disease along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. In 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for a new medication, aducanumab, that targets the protein beta-amyloid, which accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimers. The new medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits, but has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.
Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimers. Researchers are exploring other drug therapies and nondrug interventions to delay or prevent the disease as well as treat its symptoms.
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