Acupuncture For Alzheimer's Disease

All over the world, 24 million people are affected by elderly dementia and 60-80% of these have Alzheimer's disease, and it is the 3rd common cause of death in the elderly. 

The first sign of this disease is the reduced ability of communication and making decisions and it deteriorates by time, daily activities can not be accomplished, amnesia begins, the patient starts to demonstrate irrelevant behaviours. 

In recent years despite the numerous studies for medical treatments, still there is no success in treatment.

Traditional complementary medicine methods are frequently used to improve the general condition of Alzheimer's patients, to improve their quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. 

A study published in the journal of Clinical Practice, a review of 45 scientific papers, broke new ground in Alzheimer's treatment. In this study, they examined the success rates of traditional complementary medicine treatments and reported that acupuncture was very successful. After this publication, all attention was directed to acupuncture therapy for Alzheimer's disease.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture can improve the course of the disease and quality of life in Alzheimer's patients by increasing verbal and motor skills, improving mood and cognitive functions and decreasing anxiety and depression. Plaques in the brain that cause dementia decrease and cognitive functions can be increased by electroacupuncture.     

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is the formation of cytotoxic Aβ-42 plaques in the brain. These plaque deposits cause neuronal loss, memory weakness and dementia.   

A decrease in the volume of hippocampus (the region responsible for memory and direction of the brain) is a direct indication of the pathology of Alzheimer's disease. Researches show that volume loss is correlated with decreased glucose metabolism.

In Alzheimer's patients, also brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels decrease in the brain, especially in the hippocampus. This substance helps the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses, is active in the hippocampus and cortex and it is important for long-term memorisation and neurogenesis.    

Researchers discovered that electro acupuncture is a feasible and effective way to shrink Aβ1-42 plaques. Moreover, it is shown that electroacupuncture treatment significantly increases BDNF release in both hippocampus and cortex. As a result, it improves spatial learning and memory and regulates glucose metabolism in the brain. It is also discovered that repeated acupuncture treatments successfully increase nerve structure in the hippocampus and cortex area. 

A study by Cao et al. Found that electro-acupuncture to improve memory and glucose metabolism is more effective than donapezil for the same purpose.  

How is Acupuncture Treatment Applied?

In Alzheimer's patients , three sessions are performed weekly for 3 months . The sessions last for 30 minutes and in some areas electro acupuncture is applied. According to the progress in 3 months, a maintenance therapy is done twice a week and subsequently once a week.

Scalp acupuncture, which is a special acupuncture technique, is important for these patients.

Is there any side effect of acupuncture treatment?

Acupuncture treatment has no side effects.