Some medical problems may cause a reversible form of dementia. These forms of dementia are quite unusual but it is always suggested that a person have blood analyses and be screened for depression if it is suspected that they have dementia. Depression is a very common disorder and problems with memory and/or planning are some of its symptoms. Deficiencies in vitamins B12 and B1 (thiamine) and hypothyroidism can also lead to dementia-like conditions.

At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, some drugs appear to be providing some stabilisation in cognitive functioning for some people in the mild to moderate stages of the disease.  

There are different medications and treatment regimens for the different types of dementia. The most common medication that can slow the onset of symptoms is the class of drugs known as cholinesterase inhibitors. Cholinesterase inhibitors work by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical which helps with memory and which enables cells to communicate. In particular they have been shown to slow the decline of mental functions and to improve motivation. Examples of these medications are Aricept and Exelon. Memantine is another drug which is often used and this medication works in a slightly different way. Memantine blocks the NMDA receptors so that glutamate levels can be better regulated. Glutamate is involved in the processing and storage of information and too much glutamate is thought to lead to cell death. This medication has been shown to aid cognitive and sychomotor skills and to improve independent function. Other medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics may additionally be prescribed to help with any behavioural symptoms such as depression or agitation.

(Resource: Dementia Collaborative Research Centres; Alzheimer’s Australia)

Updated:  6 September 2013/ Responsible Officer:  Responsible Officer/ Page Contact:  DCRC ANU