Lewy Bodies Dementia

October 21, 2015

Lewy bodies Dementia is an umbrella term for two related diagnoses. It is both Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies are clumps of protein in neurons detectable in the brain. It is a progressive and degenerative dementia primarily affecting older adults. It causes cognitive decline and hallucinations that can be hard to diagnose because it overlaps symptoms with both Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, but it more commonly associated with the latter. It is often misdiagnosed in the early years because of the overlap.


The symptoms vary from day to day with great variations in cognition, attention, and alertness. There are recurrent hallucinations, REM sleep behavior disorder and motor features of Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s symptoms include a shuffling gate, blank expression, reduced arm swinging when walking, stiff movements and low speech volume. Although Alzheimer’s can cause problems with walking and balance, those with Lewy bodies exhibit more disabling physical symptoms whereas memory loss is more common in Alzheimer’s. Other signs of Lewy bodies are fainting, loss of consciousness, problems with digestion and psychiatric problems.


Diagnosis can be difficult in the beginning. Two things that are most easy to test are memory and movement which leads to the wrong diagnosis in the early stage of the disease. Many patients may exhibit one particular symptom over the other which will lead the doctor to conclude that it may be Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s in the beginning. Over time, the symptoms will get worse and Lewy Bodies will be determined as the cause. Some of the risk factors for Lewys Bodies include depression, low caffeine intake, anxiety, depression, stroke and a family history of Parkinson’s.


It is a faster progressing disease than Alzheimer’s, but the patient can live with Lewy Bodies for up to 20 years before succumbing to the disease. Families need support, education and help to care for the family member over a long duration. Families also need to make sure finances are in place for long-term care. A power of attorney and health and legal decisions  should also be discussed with the patient.


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