Though most types of dementia are treatable, they are not generally curable. Exceptions include dementias that occur as a result of a brain tumor or as a side effect of a specific type of drug. In these cases, it is possible for a patient to return to their non-demented state once the causative factor is addressed. However, common, chronic forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia tend not to be reversible.
Because there is currently no cure for dementia, a significant part of treatment involves implementing strategies to ensure the person’s safety and optimize their health. Specific treatments for dementia depend on the type of dementia present and how progressed the dementia is. Doctors usually regularly assess which interventions are appropriate during regular appointments with dementia patients, and these patients also tend to have caregivers at home that help assess how well treatments are working and how the disease is progressing.
Most of the drugs that are used to treat dementia have been designed to improve memory. Some of these medications, such as galantamine, donepezil, and rivastigmine are called cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs, as well as memantine, which affects glutamate, a critical brain neurotransmitter, have been shown to improve memory, but they do not stop or slow the progression of dementia.
Other drugs may be used to treat problems that cause dementia, as is the case with vascular dementia. Doctors will often prescribe vascular dementia patients with drugs to control diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. Drugs like aspirin may also be recommended to reduce the chance of blood clots. If blood vessels become blocked, surgeries may also be recommended.
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