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Alzheimer's Disease and Cholinesterase Inhibitors

Read more about Cholinesterase Inhibitors.

Overview

Cholinesterase inhibitors most commonly prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Tacrine (Cognex)
  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Galantamine (Reminyl)

Effect of Cholinesterase Inhibitors on Alzheimer's Disease

Cholinesterase inhibitors help enhance memory and other cognitive functions by influencing certain chemical interactions in the brain. The drugs function by slowing the breakdown of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps cells communicate with one another. By slowing the breakdown process, acetylcholine remains in the brain longer, thus enabling cells to communicate more efficiently. This may help to slow disease progression somewhat in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Side Effects and Warnings

Depending on which cholinesterase inhibitor you take, possible side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Fainting spells
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Liver problems (especially with tacrine)
  • Rashes
  • Dizziness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Facial flushing

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