For most cases of dementia, treatment does not yet exist to reverse or halt its progression. However, people with progressive dementias may benefit from drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, which may help delay the progression of dementia symptoms. In the early stages, treatment involving cognitive training and behavior modification may be helpful.
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, the healthcare provider will first look for treatable causes. For about 10 percent of conditions that cause dementia, treatment is available that can help reverse or at least slow down its progression. Some examples of these treatable causes of dementia include:
For most cases, treatment does not exist to reverse or halt the disease's progression; however, this does not mean that nothing should be done. People with dementia can benefit to some extent from such things as medications and cognitive training. There are also options for the family to help them cope.
Although Alzheimer's disease and certain other conditions are technically causes of dementia, they are also often referred to as dementia types. Likewise, terms such as "vascular dementia" are often used to describe causes as well as types.
Medications Used to Treat Dementia
Medications to specifically treat Alzheimer's disease and some other progressive dementias are now available and are prescribed for many people. Although these drugs do not halt the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they can improve symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. These medications may:
- Improve the person's quality of life
- Ease the burden on caregivers (see Dementia Care)
- Delay admission to a nursing home.
Many dementia research scientists are also examining whether these drugs may be useful for other types of dementia treatment.