Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Controlling underlying conditions and risk factors
Controlling conditions that affect the underlying health of your heart and blood vessels can sometimes slow the rate at which vascular dementia gets worse, and may also sometimes prevent further decline. Depending on your individual situation, your doctor may prescribe medications to:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your cholesterol level
- Prevent your blood from clotting and keep your arteries clear
- Help control your blood sugar if you have diabetes
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any drugs specifically to treat changes in judgment, planning, memory and other thought processes caused by vascular dementia. However, certain medications approved by the FDA to treat these symptoms in Alzheimer's disease may also help people with vascular dementia to the same modest extent they help those with Alzheimer's.
Doctors may prescribe one or both types of the following Alzheimer's drugs:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors — including donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon) — work by boosting levels of a brain cell chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and diarrhea.
- Memantine (Namenda) regulates another brain cell chemical messenger important for information processing, storage and retrieval. Side effects can include headache, constipation, confusion and dizziness.
- Dementia: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dementias/detail_dementia.htm. Accessed March 6, 2011.
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- Rockwood K, et al. The inclusion of cognition in vascular risk factor clinical practice guidelines. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2009;4:425.
- Vascular dementia. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/professionals_and_researchers_13517.asp. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Mixed dementia. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/professionals_and_researchers_13516.asp. Accessed March 4, 2011.
- Wright CB. Etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of vascular dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Feb. 15, 2011.
- Wright CB. Treatment and prevention of vascular dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Feb. 15, 2011.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed March 9, 2011.
- Carotid ultrasound. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/cu/cu_all.html. Accessed March 9, 2011.
- Aricept: Highlights of prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2010/022568s004,020690s033,021720s006lbl.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2011.
- Medications for memory loss. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_standard_prescriptions.asp. Accessed March 9, 2011.
- Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/E0F45395-A473-4B26-8F7E-86F4314405CE/0/CaringGuide.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2011.