Memantine is an oral medication for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a condition in which the patient’s mental ability, memory, ability to learn, communicate and handle daily activities is slowly impaired.
It’s a relatively new medication currently used to treat the symptoms of some types of dementia. It has also shown to have a helpful effect on stroke recovery and would be the first medication to directly treat stroke.
Memantine, known by different trade names in the market is moderately effective in preventing the progression of dementia symptoms. Studies have shown that Memantine causes stabilization or small improvement in cognitive functioning such as learning, thinking and memory and daily functioning of patients with AD.
It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in treating moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common and recognized causes of dementia. However, Memantine will not cure Alzheimer’s disease or prevent the loss of patient’s abilities in the future. It will only help improve the symptoms of the disease and delay its progression.
Memantine is a type of medication called NMDA-receptor antagonist. It is believed to inhibit the chemical glutamate that causes deterioration of the brain cells through the process called neuroexcitatory damage. Neuroexcitatory brain cell injury plays a role in the brain damage that occurs as the result of a stroke. Overexposure to the chemical glutamate is also thought to cause damage to the brain cells in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Memantine works by decreasing the abnormal activity in the brain. It blocks the receptors in the brain that would normally bind to glutamate. These receptors and nerve cells are involved in transmitting messages to and from the brain and are important in memory and learning. Blocking these receptors blocks the excessive activity of glutamate that could cause further damage to the brain cells but still allows the normal activation of the receptors.
When and How to Use Memantine
Memantine comes in oral form for you to take by mouth. Take Memantine exactly as directed by your physician or as written on the Patients Information Leaflets. Your dose depends on several factors such as:
- Your age
- The form of Memantine you take
- The severity of your condition
- Your other medications
The typical dose in treating Alzheimer’s disease in adults 18 years and older is 5 mg once a day. Your doctor may increase your dose to 5mg two times a day with a maximum dose of 20 mg a day.
You can take your medication with or without food. Swallow it whole with a glass of water. For a missed dose, take it on your next usual dose the following day. Do not double up your dose to make up for the missed one. Memantine may be used as part of combination therapy. You can take it along with other medication that treats dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
What to know before taking Memantine
- Your doctor may only prescribe this medication to you if you have a caregiver or someone who will regularly make sure you take the medicine.
- Memantine can make it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery. It may also affect your reactivity, so special care is needed when doing potentially hazardous activities.
- Memantine may interact or alter the effects of other medicines. Inform your doctor if you are taking any other medications including those bought without prescription and herbal medications before taking Memantine.
- Tell your doctor if you are allergic to this medication or any of its ingredients. Tell your doctor also if you are having surgery including a dental procedure.
- Inform your doctor if you have urinary tract infections, difficulty urinating, seizures or liver or kidney disease.
Possible Side Effects of Memantine
Memantine may cause unwanted side effects. Inform your doctor if any of these side effects are severe or do not go away:
- Weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Problems with balance
- Pain anywhere in the body
- Increased blood pressure
- Fungal infection
- Abnormal gait
An uncommon and serious side effect that needs immediate medical attention includes:
- Heart failure
- An abnormal blood clot in a vein such as venous thrombosis or thromboembolism
- Inflammation of the liver with signs like yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Loss of consciousness
- Double vision
- Psychotic reactions such as delusion or mania with signs like hallucinations and suicidal thoughts
- Allergic reaction with signs like skin rash, hives, shortness of breath and swelling of the tongue, lips or face
- Pancreatitis with signs like severe abdominal pain and severe nausea
The side effects mentioned can affect individual in different ways. Just because they are stated, it doesn’t mean all who take Memantine will experience the side effects.
Getting the Best Result from Memantine
- Use Memantine with care in:
- People with heart failure
- People with epilepsy
- People who have had a recent heart attack
- People with uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure
- People with kidney problems
- People with severe infections of the urinary tract
- Do not use Memantine in:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People who are allergic to any of its ingredients
- People with severely decreased liver function
- Patients with genitourinary conditions due to an increased risk of adverse effects
- Memantine has not been established as safe and effective for use by children and those younger than 18 years old.