Lewy body dementia is one of the neurodegenerative forms of dementia and is triggered by the eponymous Lewy bodies in the nerve cells of the cerebral cortex. Read More about Dementia with Lewy bodies symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.
Lewy body dementia is rarer than Alzheimer’s and is diagnosed in around five percent of all dementia diseases. In addition to a progressive memory and movement disorder, those affected also show noticeably rapid fluctuations in their mental abilities and their alertness over the course of the day.
What is Lewy body dementia?
Lewy body dementia is one of the most common causes of dementia in older people. Dementia is loss of mental functions severe enough to affect your daily life and activities. These functions include:
- Language skills
- Visual perception (your ability to understand what you see)
- Problem solving
- Daily Homeworks
- The ability to focus and pay attention.
What types of Lewy body dementia are there?
There are two types of this dementia: Dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Both types cause the same changes in the brain and, over time, cause the same symptoms. The main difference is when cognitive (thinking) and movement symptoms begin.
Lewy body dementia causes problems with the ability to think similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Later, it causes other problems, such as movement symptoms, visual hallucinations, and certain sleep problems. It also causes more problems with mental activities than with memory.
Parkinson’s disease dementia begins as a movement disorder. It first causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, slow movements, muscle stiffness, tremor, and a shuffling walk. Later, it causes dementia.
What is the cause of Lewy body dementia?
Lewy body dementia occurs when Lewy bodies build up in parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and movement. Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Researchers don’t know exactly why these deposits form. But they know that other diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, also involve the accumulation of this protein.
Who is at risk for Lewy body dementia?
The greatest risk factor for dementia with Lewy bodies is age, with most people who develop it being over 50 years of age. Those with a family history of Lewy body dementia are also at higher risk.
Dementia with lewy bodies symptoms
Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease. This means that the symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. The most common Dementia with lewy bodies symptoms include changes in cognition, movement, sleep, and behavior:
• Dementia : Loss of mental functions that is severe enough to affect your daily life and activities
• Changes in concentration, attention, alertness, and wakefulness : These changes usually happen from one day to the next. But sometimes they can also occur throughout the same day
• Visual hallucinations : Means seeing things that are not there
• Problems with movement and posture : These include slowness of movement, difficulty walking, and muscle stiffness. These are called motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
• REM sleep behavior disorder is a condition in which a person appears to physically act out dreams. It can include vivid dreams, sleep talking, violent movements, or falling out of bed. In some people, it can be the earliest Dementia with lewy bodies symptoms. May appear several years before any other symptoms of the disease
• Changes in behavior and mood : Such as depression, anxiety, and apathy (lack of interest in normal daily activities or events)
In the early stages of Dementia with lewy bodies symptoms can be mild and people can function fairly normally. As the disease worsens, people with the condition need more help because of problems with thinking and movement. In the later stages of the disease, they are often unable to care for themselves.
What is the difference between the symptoms of Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease?
In contrast to Parkinson’s disease, in Lewy body dementia the motor disorders such as hand tremors only appear later in the disease course. Typical dementia symptoms show up earlier. Important indications of Lewy body dementia are therefore provided by the psychological abnormalities and the often strong fluctuations in mental performance over the course of the day.
How is Lewy body disease diagnosed?
There is no test to diagnose Lewy body dementia. It is important to see an experienced doctor for a diagnosis, such as a neurologist. The specialist will perform:
- A medical history, including a detailed list of your symptoms. The doctor will talk to both the patient and their caregivers.
- Physical and neurological exams.
- Tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as blood and imaging tests.
- Neuropsychological tests to assess memory and other cognitive functions.
Lewy body dementia can be difficult to diagnose because Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease cause similar symptoms. Scientists think that Lewy body dementia may be related to these diseases, or that they may sometimes occur together.
It is also important to know what type of Lewy body dementia a person has, so that the doctor can treat specific symptoms. It also helps the doctor determine how the disease will affect the person over time. The health professional will make the diagnosis based on when certain symptoms start:
- If the cognitive problems begin within a year of the movement problems, the diagnosis is dementia with Lewy bodies.
- If the cognitive problems begin more than a year after the movement problems, the diagnosis is Parkinson’s disease dementia.
What are the treatments for dementia with Lewy bodies?
There is no cure for Lewy body dementia, but treatments can help with symptoms:
- Medications can help with some of the cognitive, movement, and psychiatric symptoms.
- Physical therapy can help with movement problems.
- Occupational therapy can help find ways to make daily activities easier.
- Speech therapy can help with problems swallowing and speaking loud and clear.
- Mental health counseling can help people with Lewy body dementia and their families deal with emotional and behavioral problems. It can also help plan for the future.
- Music or art therapy can reduce anxiety and improve well-being.
Support groups can also benefit people with dementia with Lewy bodies and their carers. They can provide emotional and social support. They also serve as a space to share tips on coping with the daily challenges of the condition.