Many people with dementia, their caregivers, and loved ones often ask us if dementia medication make dementia worse?
In short: Yes and no.
Before answering this question, it is important to note that medicine for dementia does not cure the progressive illness.
They are usually prescribed to help with symptoms that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and mood. The medication may also help some people and not others.
Additionally, in some cases, the medicine may only work for about 6-12 months.
It is not possible to buy dementia medicine because they are only available on prescription.
Only a doctor who specializes in treating dementia may prescribe the drugs an affected individual should take.
Read on to learn more about dementia medicines and whether or not they can make the illness worse below.
Medication for Dementia
4 common pharmaceutical drugs usually prescribed for dementia include:
The above come in various brand names and are available as liquids, tablets, patches, or tablets that dissolve in water.
Furthermore, there are other medication options that people with dementia may take such as:
- Sleeping tablets
- Antipsychotic medicine or tranquilisers
How Medication for Dementia Works
Pharmaceutical drugs given to persons living with dementia normally work by increasing the levels of various chemicals in the brain.
Medications like rivastigmine, donepezil, and galantamine increase the levels of a chemical known as acetylcholine.
This chemical is usually low in persons who have dementia and the medicine can treat some of the symptoms that affect memory and thinking in some people with the neurodegenerative illness.
NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends that the 3 medications are more suitable for persons who have mild or moderate dementia.
Common side effects of these medications may include muscle cramps, feeling sick, diarrhea, headache, and tiredness.
Memantine is another pharmaceutical drug that doctors prescribe for persons with dementia. It helps to reduce the amount of glutamate.
Experts believe that it slows down damage to brain cells affected by dementia.
Some side-effects of taking this medicine include confusion dizziness, headache, vomiting, weight gain, constipation, aggression, depression, nausea, cough, and body pains.
Impact of Medication on Persons with Dementia
When looking for answers to the query can dementia medication make dementia worse, it is important to note that different people react differently to the medicines.
Weil Institute for Neurosciences states that generally there are 3 ways people with dementia may react to the pharmaceutical drugs:
1. At times, the medicine may lead to improvement in cognition, memory, or behavior.
2. For some individuals, the medication may not make any notable difference. However, behavior, cognition, and memory may not decline or worsen as fast without the medicines.
3. Sometimes the medication may not work at all and it can seem like a person becomes worse and suffers various side effects.
How To take Medications for Dementia
Dementia doctors normally recommend that a person starts taking medication in small doses before increasing it after some time to target the required dose.
This is very important when it comes to answering the question can dementia make dementia worse.
Depending on how an individual reacts to the medication, a doctor can either stop the medication entirely or go ahead with the treatment option.
Keep in mind that many people will develop some side effects when they start taking dementia medication.
For most, these usually go away after some time.
While most people can take dementia medicine without a problem, it’s necessary to observe individuals who have a history of medical problems.
For instance, persons with severe kidney or liver issues may not be in a position to take the medicines or if they are helpful may need to take lower doses.
Medication that can Make Dementia Worse
Some medicines used to improve dementia seek to increase choline levels in the brain. This is a chemical that the brain cells use to communicate with each other.
Some types of pharmaceutical drugs are “anti-cholinergic” which means that they decrease choline levels.
Such medication can make dementia worse and can also increase agitation and confusion levels.
They may also cause difficulties while urinating, constipation, and a dry mouth.
Examples of such medication include:
- Benadryl: This is mostly found in over-the-counter sleeping and allergy pills as well as cough syrups.
- Tropsium/Sanctura: these aid persons who need to urinate frequently but they can also cause agitation and confusion.
- Bladder pills like Detrol/Tolterodine.
- Atropine/AtroPen: Caution needs to be exercised when using eye drops in dementia.
- Glycopyrrolate/Robinul: it dries secretions and also causes agitation and confusion
- Diphenoxylate and Lomotil/atropine: it is often prescribed for persons who have diarrhea. It may be okay when used one or two times. Frequent use, however, may cause problems for persons who have dementia.
- Amitriptyline: In the past, this was used to treat depression. Today, it is prescribed to treat irritable bowel conditions and neuropathy.
- Steroids: medicines that are often used to reduce various types of inflammation can cause pose health problems for individuals with dementia. An example is Prednisone that which can cause insomnia, agitation, and confusion.
There is no standard (yes or no) answer to the question can dementia medication make dementia worse.
This is because some people can have positive results after taking the medicine while others will experience worsening symptoms.
Research, however, continues in search of new medications that can help with dementia.