Saturday, July 19, 2014

Advances in the Treatment of Alzheimer's


With one in eight older Americans getting Alzheimer's in their lifetime, and the shocking statistic that Alzheimer's is one of the highest causes of death in the U.S., it is becoming more and more important for new treatments and cures for Alzheimer's. While there is no known cure to Alzheimer's, medicines are getting better and advances are still being made in the field. Progress includes understanding the mechanisms of the disease, controlling and understanding dementia, and new medications to help slow its progression.

Understanding Dementia:  Dementia is one of the worst symptoms  of Alzheimer's but recent developments are learning to understand it, and some of the advances allow for better treatment, which is very beneficial. Doctors now understand the differences between dementia caused by Alzheimer's and other diseases, which also allows for better recognition and diagnosis of the disease. Other advances, including new understandings of the biochemistry behind Alzheimer's boost these findings and allow doctors to better recognize and treat Alzheimer's symptoms. For example, the gene for the apolipoprotein E 4 allele is much more common in person with Alzheimer's than in those without it.

Medications for Memory Loss: While memory loss is still the most prevalent symptom of Alzheimer's disease, there are now medications that help to prevent memory loss, and to slow its progression. Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are both used treat cognitive symptoms like confusion, memory loss, and thinking problems, to allow people with Alzheimer's to live more normally. The two types of drugs are used both separately and together depending on the case.

Delaying Progression: While drugs cannot yet cure Alzheimers, there are several options that help to delay the progression of symptoms. The two main drugs in this sector are tacrine and donezepil, which are mostly available as Cognex and Aricept, the two drugs, both of which can return a patient to their condition 6-12 months prior to starting treatment over time, although the patient will eventually slowly begin to slide into symptoms again.

Late Stage Care: There are also multiple new advances in late stage care, or the care of people with advanced Alzheimers. New research shoes doctors where patients are suffering, so that they can treat and better care for people who cannot communicate for themselves. This is important because many of the patients in medical care are left with poor care when they cannot communicate pain or discomfort.

While the advances in Alzheimer's are already quite a bit compared to twenty years ago, there are also many drugs to help slow and prevent symptoms in clinical trials, meaning that the medicine and treatment available might improve again within just a few years time. New tests that are being studied include methods of advance warning for identifying persons likely to get Alzheimer's, so that they can begin treatment before major progression of the disease. Other drugs are being tested for reducing the inflammation and working with the protein markers caused by Alzheimer's, and of course, doctors and biologists around the world are still working to cure or help prevent or slow Alzheimer's further. This article was reprinted courtesy of STL Health.