Today, roughly 47.5 million people throughout the world suffer from dementia, with almost 8 million new cases every year. Dementia affects mostly older adults, although it’s not considered a normal part of the aging process. Those with dementia experience a decline in cognitive ability, changes in their behavior and mood, and difficulty performing everyday tasks.
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is one of the most common forms of dementia, just after Alzheimer’s disease. It affects nearly 1.4 million people and their families in the United States alone, and like other dementias, there is currently no cure.
What is Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy bodies are clumps of protein that can form and build up in the brain, causing problems with the way your brain works. A neurologist named Frederick H. Lewy discovered them when he was working alongside Dr. Alois Alzheimer in the early 1900s.
Lewy bodies are found in other brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia. The two most common types of LBD include dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. While the symptoms of these two diseases differ, they reflect the same underlying changes in the brain. Both diseases tend to start when sufferers experience difficulty with movement, and Parkinson’s usually leads to problems with thinking and memory.
Common Symptoms and Causes of Dementia with Lewy Bodies
The cause of dementia with Lewy bodies is still unknown. As with other types of dementia, there is no one test that can lead to a conclusive diagnosis. There seems to be no family history of the disorder, and no genes are linked to Lewy body dementia. A diagnosis of LBD is a clinical diagnosis, which means it’s based on the best professional judgment of the doctor.
Some of the common symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include:
- Problems with movement. This symptom mirrors the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease- rigid muscles, balance issues and hunched posture. Those with LBD may shuffle or walk slowly or experience shaking hands.
- Memory loss and confusion. Significant memory loss may be present, but not as prominent as it is with Alzheimer’s disease. Their confusion and alertness may vary throughout the day or from one day to the next.
- Hallucinations. Visual hallucinations are a common symptom of LBD.
- REM sleep behavior disorder. Acting out dreams or making violent movements while in bed, or falling out of bed. Most people with Lewy body dementia will also have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, or sleep a lot during the daytime.
- Difficulty making decisions. Those with LBD will display trouble making easy decisions or changes in their thinking or reasoning. They maybe have difficulty concentrating on any one task, or making plans, organizing, and multi-tasking.
- Depression. Dementia with Lewy bodies can cause depression or lack of interest.
Like Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis is key to getting proper treatment. Currently, there are no drugs that can stop or reverse Lewy body dementia, but doctors will work to treat each symptom of LBD separately through a variety of medications.
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