Although there are some treatments for Alzheimer's disease, there is currently no cure. Treatment available focuses on delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease symptoms, or helping to offset dementia and hallucinations that can occur in late stage Alzheimer's disease. Many other proposed treatments are under investigation for possible efficacy.
Several medications can help delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease. These medications include tacrine (brand name Cognex®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), and galantamine (Razadyne® or Reminyl®). Such drugs are taken during early onset of Alzheimer’s and may help reduce cognition dysfunction and dementia. Common side effects include upset stomach, which is often reduced by taking the medication with food.
One medication, donepezil (Aricept®), may improve cognitive function even if taken at later stages of Alzheimer's disease. Again, Aricept is associated with stomach upset, but side effects are usually outweighed by potential benefits of the medication. None of these medications can cure Alzheimer's disease but some may increase time before the disease progresses and may help improve early onset symptoms like memory loss and mild confusion.
As Alzheimer's disease progresses, some people benefit from medications primarily taken by people with psychiatric hallucinatory conditions. Atypical antipsychotics such as clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, and ziprasadone, known respectively by patented names Clozaril®, Risperdal®, Zyprexa®, and Geodon®, may all prove beneficial to people who are prone to violence due to late Alzheimer's disease dementia. They can help people feel more comfortable, inducing fewer episodes of severe dementia and confusion.
Some other treatments under investigation show that vitamins E and C when taken jointly can delay onset of more severe Alzheimer's disease symptoms by about seven months. Alternative medicine advocates suggest ginkgo biloba might also help delay memory loss. Medical researchers are currently trying to put together clinical trials to test this claim. Estrogen replacement therapy may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, but has been linked to various forms of cancer, so risks must be weighed against benefits.
Some researchers believe that further stem cell research may hold the key to curing Alzheimer's disease. More needs to be understood in this area about what stem cells would be likely to help fix brain cells that have deteriorated, and whether using stem cells might cause adverse affects. This relatively new field still requires significant research to determine whether Alzheimer’s disease could be addressed via stem cell therapy.
Continued research into the causes, mechanisms and potential cure of Alzheimer's disease is clearly needed. This remains a challenging condition for people affected by the disease and their families. It is hoped that a larger body of research will ultimately find a way to effectively end this disease.