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How is Dementia treated? Is there a complete cure?

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Dementia is a term used to describe collective symptoms like memory loss, impaired judgement, difficulty in abstract thinking, confusion with time and place etc. These symptoms go beyond the normal aging characteristics and hinder with a person’s ability to function smoothly in his day-to-day life.

Dementia can be of various types and each of them have different symptoms. Certain dementia cases caused by specific medical conditions can be treated which can help restore some mental function, like –

  • Taking vitamins for B12 deficiency that causes sluggish memory.
  • Treating cardiovascular dementia with drugs to prevent strokes and reduce the risk of brain damage. In case of a brain stroke, certain drugs used to improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease have proven helpful in recovery. Most risk factors leading to the development of cardiovascular dementia are same as ones that can possibly develop a cerebrovascular disease. These include cholesterol problem, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, blood pressure. Hence any preventive action as well as treatment of these problems can help manage or even prevent cardiovascular dementia.
  • In case of brain tumor, a surgery to remove it to reduce the pressure on the affected area can help in getting back some of the mental functions.

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But therapies to stop or cure common progressive neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Lewy bodies have not been met with much success.

  • Alzheimer’s symptoms are managed with the help of cholinesterase inhibitor drugs which temporarily improves or stabilizes the memory and cognition. The added benefit of NMDA receptor medications can prevent further decline of memory and the learning ability in a patient. But none of the drugs can completely stop or reverse Alzheimer’s.
  • Frontotemporal disorders – There are no specific approved medications. But sedatives and antidepressants are used to manage symptoms and behavioural problems.
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia – Certain cholinesterase inhibitor drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are used to improve cognitive ability as well as to manage behavioural and psychotic symptoms.

At some point throughout the illness, the dementia patients exhibit symptoms like depression, anxiety, frustration, aggression, disturbed sleep, delusions or hallucinations etc. Most of these symptoms are managed with Antidepressants, Antipsychotic drugs, Mood elevators and Anticonvulsant drugs etc. These are often supported with other behavioural and cognitive therapies for better results.

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We also need to create an educated and supportive environment to encourage the suffering individuals to speak their mind and share their experience. This alone will help in early identification of symptoms and accurate diagnosis which is vital to providing effective treatment and preventing further progress of dementia.

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