How can acetylcholinesterase inhibitors be used to treat dementia?

Sarah N. Mourra, MD
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used in dementia to slow the inevitable decline that occurs when people have this condition. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are considered memory medications. They do not cure dementia nor necessarily improve cognition. The common ones that doctors use are donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon) in the patch or oral form. 
Essentially, dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s dementia, can be a state of deficient acetylcholine. The mechanism of action of these drugs is that they stop the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, thus increasing the level of acetylcholine in the brain, with the presumed idea that they may improve cognition or at least prevent further decline.

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