Alzheimer's Disease is a condition marked by the gradual but continuous deterioration of the brain.
This can dramatically alter the life of not only the patient afflicted with the disease, but also their family and their loved ones. As the disease progresses, patients suffering from the disease can expect to notice a decline in their memory, changes in their personality and the eventual inability to take care of themselves and live independently.
Here, we will focus on a general review of what treatments are available and a quick description of why they could be helpful.
Medications that can help with Alzheimer's disease
One of the first-line treatments for Alzheimer's disease would be known as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. The main types of medications that fall under this category would be galantamine, rivastigmine, donepezil and memantine.
Acetylcholine (ACh) is a chemical produced in numerous regions of your body to help neurons communicate with each other. In healthy adults, a nerve will send in an electric stimulus to one end of one neuron that will trigger the release of ACh into the gap between the neurons. At this stage, ACh will bind to a receptor onto the next neuron. The message will progress through the body and then an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase will come and remove the leftover ACh molecules.
In a patient with Alzheimer's disease, however, the number of receptors that catch this ACh is reduced because of the damage seen within the brain. When a signal is transmitted in the brain of these patients, ACh will be released but it will not always be able to find a receptor to bind to. This will delay the time it takes to transmit a message throughout the body and is the reason why patients with Alzheimer's tend to have difficulty with memory and walking.
Another line of medications that are quite helpful in patients suffering from Alzheimer's would be antidepressants. As the brain deteriorates, the brain chemicals responsible for your mood will begin to fall and patients will often become quite depressed as a result. These medications will be paramount in helping patients not only increase the chemicals to adequate levels, but they will also help patients maintain their sleeping patterns and drastically improve their quality of life.
Numerous studies have also shown how antidepressants are useful in preventing dementia. This is one of the most common complications of Alzheimer's disease, so if you are able to reduce the severity of dementia, the disease will be less life-altering for patients and their loved ones.
Therapies that can help with Alzheimer's disease
Although medications can be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, another component that must be included in the treatment of the disease would be the utilization of education and therapy.
Alzheimer's is a disease that will eventually progress even with these types of therapies. It is important for patients and family members to be aware of this to have realistic expectations of what will happen next.
Loved ones can often go to courses where they can learn about the disease and about the types of things they may need to do to help cope with the stress associated with the disease. These courses can also help explain some of the symptoms of the disease and give advice on techniques that may be beneficial to help a patient stay mobile and independent for as long as possible. They will also help paint a realistic picture of what to expect as the disease progresses and to teach loved ones when to call for additional support when it becomes too difficult to care for the patient by themselves.
Another type of therapy that will be used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease is known as cognitive therapy. This is something already utilized for centuries in the psychiatric field but it is also very helpful for a condition like Alzheimer's disease. The focus of this type of therapy is problem-solving strategies and can help address the anxiety and depression that a patient diagnosed with the disease will surely face.
Mental training is another type of therapy that patients with this type of condition could benefit from. Doing problem-solving tasks daily can help stimulate brain activity and prevent the rapid deterioration of the brain. Patients can also notice an improvement in their memory with this type of training which will be very helpful to maintain their independence.
In some cases, even therapy like deep-brain stimulation may be helpful. This is a type of treatment typically reserved for severely depressed patients, but studies have shown there may be some benefit to patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease as well. This therapy entails passing a mild but targeted electrical current directly into the brain to help stimulate neurons. It is a technique that has been used for diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's to help improve movement in patients and help reduce the severity of depression.
Always be open to trying different treatments or techniques, because they can really help.