Hi, I am new on this Forum page. I am also new to Alzheimer’s. I’ve been reading quite a bit but I wonder can someone tell me what the medication actually does? Does it stop the production of plaque or clean it up after it has been formed? Sorry to sound so ignorant. Tx.
There are basically two types of alzheimer’s medications currently in use. There are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (like Aricept, Reminyl, and Exelon and glutamate inhibitors (like Namenda).
Both acetylcholine and glutamate carry messages from one brain cell to another and are essential in our recalling memories.
When acetylcholine is broken down by the acetylcholinesterase some of the resulting debris leaks out of the brain cell and combines with other stuff to produce beta-amyloid plaques. The first three medications help to slow down the formation of the esterase.
Also, when the brain cell is producing too much glutamate,some of it leaks out to form more plaque. The other medication, Namenda, slows this process down.
Additionally, some of the debris from both processes stays inside the cell and forms tangles of proteins called Tau. They also have a bad effect on the energy producing part of each cell, a tiny miniature cell within the cell, called the mitochondria. Energy from what we eat is used in the mitochondria to keep the cell alive and working as it should.
None of the plaques and tangles are good for a brain cell and it dies prematurely (probably producing still more plaque).
Basically, plaque is a complicated mess of proteins which cannot be dissolved in the blood and carried away. It just keeps accumulating.
This is my over-simplified idea of what goes on. Nobody understands it fully. I have no medical training.
Lightbearer–Your post was anything but ignorant.
The medications must be doing something. On 08/01/08 ICAD issued a press release titled “Persistent Use of Antidementia Drugs May Prolong Alzheimer’s Disease Survival. That article can be found at: http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ICAD/tb/10394
This afternoon (before I realized that John had answered your post) I did a little research and came across the following quote that gives me the impression that for some there may be actual proof that with Aricept something is definitely happening:
“… In a recent study, magnetic resonance images show less brain shrinkage among people with MCI treated with donepezil than among people with MCI treated with a placebo. Donepezil had this effect only in people who carry a gene associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s, however…”
Thanks very much John. Thank you Skericheri.
You both made it simple enough for me to understand the mechanics of the medication. Thank you very much. I appreciate the amount of time invested to help me understand this. Take care.
God will always bless,
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