Dementia is a condition affecting the brain causing severe problems in a person’s ability to perform daily tasks and activities.
Dementia can be of several kinds. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (known also as AD or senile dementia) and it strikes older people most of the time. This disease affects the area of the brain that is responsible for language, memory, and control of thought. There are about more than 4 million Americans who suffer from this condition.
Most AD sufferers are past the age of 60 and the likelihood for the disease increases with age. In the United States, 3% of the men and women from 65 to 74 years of age have AD. The percentage goes higher as age increases with almost 50% of Americans 85 years of age suffering from this condition. This statistic, however, does not mean that AD is a normal consequence of aging.
The manner in how fast the disease worsens differs from person to person but on average, after they have been diagnosed with AD, patients live for around 8 to 10 years after diagnosis.
The process of AD development is gradual. Initially, the symptom of mild forgetfulness may be the only indication of the disease. AD sufferers usually have difficulty in remembering names of things, people, or places and activities and events. Also, certain basic arithmetic problems may be difficult to figure out. These difficulties may be a bit troublesome but are not causes for alarm. But as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more noticeable and serious enough for family members and other people to avail of medical help. People with advanced stages of AD, are likely unable to perform simple tasks like combing their hair or brushing their teeth. Their lucidity or capacity to think clearly slowly goes away. They start having difficulties in writing, reading, understanding, or speaking. They become aggressive or anxious and may wander away from their place of residence. In short, they need outside assistance to survive.
Currently, in diagnosing AD, doctors look for any tangles or plaques in the brain tissue of the patient. The only way to observe the brain tissue is through an autopsy. There is no way to ascertain an ED diagnosis while the patient is alive and so both the doctor and the patient settle with a “probable” or “possible” diagnosis for AD.
Western modes of treatment for AD
There is no existing cure for Alzheimer’s disease. For early and mid stages of the condition, doctors usually prescribe drugs such as Reminyl or galanatamine, Exelon (rivastigmine), Aricept (donepezil, or Cgonex (tacrine). These drugs can, for a certain period of time, prevent the worsening of the symptoms. Certain medications can also be useful in controlling the behavioral symptoms related to AD including depression, anxiety, wandering, agitation, and sleeplessness. When these symptoms are resolved, the patient becomes more comfortable making caring for them much easier.
The drug Namenda is an N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist that is used for moderate to extreme cases of Alzheimer’s. It is designed to slow down the progress of the disease. It also enables the patient to perform specific daily functions for some time. Namenda is given to patients with severe AD to help the patient go to the bathroom by himself/herself for a number of months.
How TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) treats dementia
The most common treatments used by TCM practitioners for dementia are acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Dementia, based on the theory of TCM, is the result of emotional disorders that impact the function of the systems of the heart, spleen, kidney, and liver. When these systems malfunction, it causes blood stagnation and the accumulation of phlegm in the brain. Acupuncturists and TCM practitioners utilize acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies to resolve the malfunctioning systems, boost blood flow in the brain, and clear out the problem-causing phlegm in the brain.
Fifty three patients all suffering from senile dementia participated in a study in which 53 of them were given Chinese herbal remedies while the rest (51 patients) were given Nimodipine. Forty percent of the ones given Chinese herbs showed a significant improvement in their symptoms while only a quarter of those given Nimodipine had shown significant improvement.
Emily Farish Acupuncture
400 S. Jefferson, Suite 203
Spokane, WA 99204