Alzheimer's Drug May Aid Stroke Survivors with Dementia
Stroke survivors who lose some of their thinking abilities as a result of a stroke can restore some of their lost mental capacity by use of the well-known Alzheimer?s medication Aricept, according to newly released medical research.
Stroke survivors with vascular dementia (VaD) can benefit from at least 12 months of improved thinking abilities through treatment with the drug Aricept (donepezil), according to researchers who announced their findings at the American Psychiatric Association meeting last week.
The National Stroke Association (NSA), for one, is optimistic about the findings and hopes further research will show the same promising results.
Researchers reported this week at the results of a study using Aricept with 453 patients diagnosed with VaD. The study was designed to determine whether the drug was safe and effective long-term (one year) and could help maintain or improve the memory loss and cognitive function that can be caused by VaD. The results indicated that patients receiving Aricept maintained their cognitive function, which was measured by their Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale cognitive scores.
It is estimated that nearly a fifth of the people who suffer a stroke will develop problems involving their mental abilities for memory and decision-making. VaD is a decline in those abilities. It occurs when brain tissue is damaged by reduced blood flow to the brain, most commonly by a stroke or series of strokes. The brain cells have difficulty working together to process information. This can lead to memory loss, confusion, and decreased attention span, in addition to problems with activities of daily living.
The occurrence of VaD increases with age, and many experts estimate that approximately 10% to 20% of Americans over age 65 experiencing dementia have VaD, making it second only to Alzheimer's disease as a leading cause of dementia.
Several of the risk factors for VaD are the same as for stroke, including high blood pressure, history of previous stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol levels.
Sometimes, the dementia can come on abruptly as the result of a single stroke, depending on the location and size of damaged brain area. In other instances, the onset of VaD is so gradual that healthcare providers may have difficulty distinguishing it from Alzheimer's disease.
Patients with VaD often deteriorate in a step-wise manner, with symptoms becoming greater with each new stroke. Symptoms may include: memory loss, confusion, mood swings and personality changes, difficulty planning and organizing tasks, language problems, difficulty paying attention or following a conversation, impaired motor skills, visual orientation problems, difficulty with calculations, making decisions, solving problems or depression-like behavior.
Currently, there are no medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) available for the treatment of VaD. Current treatment strategies focus on reducing the risk of additional strokes, or prevention of stroke.
More research is needed to determine if Aricept is safe for patients with stroke-related dementia and effective in helping maintain or improve cognitive function in that group.
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