What are some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and what treatments do doctors recommend for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease? Most people know that Alzheimer’s disease causes memory loss, but are unaware…and unprepared when a close relative with advanced Alzheimer’s disease starts exhibiting severe mood disorders, disorientation, and difficulty carrying on or understanding conversations.
Memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease involves more than just not being able to remember where you put your keys. Because Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that shrinks the brain, symptoms of cognitive impairments start out small and get more debilitating with time. Very few medications are available to stop or delay this advancement.
At first, early-phase Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult to remember events from the previous day, or to summon names or words easily. Over time, you may notice quirky behavior, like wearing clothes backwards or forgetting the time of day…or year.
Later, as the illness develops, math calculations become much more difficult. Organizational skills, ability to plan ahead, and social awareness become compromised, as well. Alzheimer’s disease patients start to suffer mood swings, depression, bursts of anger, and paranoia. Hallucinations and inability to distinguish recent events from childhood memories persist.
Signs of severe Alzheimer’s disease include not being able to recognize your spouse or other close loved ones, or confusing your daughter or son for your mother or father. Patients of Alzheimer’s disease require constant supervision and treatment, as they tend to wander off and become lost.
Alzheimer’s disease treatments
While there is no specific treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, doctors are able to prescribe several medications that may help cope with some of the symptoms. In time, research on Alzheimer’s disease may one day uncover a cure.
Medications approved by the FDA for Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Donepezil (Aricept), acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor
- Rivastigmine (Exelon), acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor
- Galantamine (Nivalin, Razadyne, Reminyl, Lycoremine), acetyl cholinesterase inhibitor
- Namenda (Memantine HCL), glutamatergic medicine for blocking NMDA-type glutamate receptors
Natural supplements that benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Vitamin B12, for maintaining cognitive health, supporting nervous system integrity, boosting memory in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and breaking down homocysteine, a hormone associated with increased risk for heart attack and stroke (see below)
- Vitamin E, for destroying free radicals and supporting brain tissue health
- Coenzyme Q10, also for antioxidant treatment properties
- Ginkgo biloba provides anti-inflammatory benefits
- Huyperine A, a Chinese herb favored for its beneficial effects on memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related dementia
- Omega-3 fatty acids, for preserving a healthy response to inflammation and general cognitive health
Vitamin B12 deficiency treatment in Alzheimer’s disease research
Scientists have noted a high correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and brain deterioration related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia caused by age.
For one, vitamin B12 helps your body break down homocysteine to a healthy minimum. In several studies, elevated homocysteine levels occur in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Homocysteine levels are also linked with heart disease and stroke.
By comparing MRI results of Alzheimer’s disease patients with normal and depleted levels of vitamin B12, they noted that the latter showed the beginnings of brain atrophy, while their peers who had normal vitamin B12 supplies had normal-sized healthy brain mass.
Also, elderly individuals showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease but had normal vitamin B12 levels scored better on tests demonstrating cognitive skills than their counterparts who had severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Vitamin B12 injections
- Vitamin B12 sublingual treatments
- Nonedible over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12 supplements