What is Lewy Body Dementia?

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Also known as LBD, Lewy Body Dementia is a common form of dementia that affects 1.5 million Americans. Here’s what you need to know about this condition.

There are many different forms of dementia, though most people only know about the more common forms like Alzheimer’s. Another common form of dementia is called Lewy Body Dementia, or LBD, and it affects more than 1.5 million American adults. As common as this condition is, symptoms tend to develop slowly and they closely resemble the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, making diagnosis tricky. Keep reading to learn more about this condition.

What Causes Lewy Body Dementia?

Also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, LBD is the second most common form of progressive dementia aside from Alzheimer’s-related dementia. This condition develops when protein deposits called Lewy bodies form in the nerve cells, specifically the nerve cells in the parts of brain responsible for memory, thinking, and motor control.

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LBD causes a progressive decline in the patient’s mental abilities and may induce various symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Though the exact cause of LBD is still the subject of study, certain risk factors have been associated with the disease. If you are over the age of 60, male, or have a family history of LBD or Parkinson’s, your risk for the disease may be higher. There also seems to be a correlation between depression and LBD.

What Are the Symptoms of LBD?

Some of the most common symptoms of LBD include visual hallucinations and Parkinsonian symptoms such as slowed movements, rigid muscles, shuffling walk, and tremors. Many patients with LBD develop problems with the regulation of bodily functions such as blood pressure, sweating, and digestion.

Related: Early Signs of Dementia Checklist

Cognitive problems similar to Alzheimer’s disease are common, including confusion, memory loss, and poor attention. Many patients also have trouble with sleep and may develop apathy. Because LBD is a progressive form of dementia, symptoms may worsen over time. Signs of worsening LBD may include aggressive behavior, severe depression, increased frequency of falls, and an increase in Parkinsonian symptoms such as tremors. On average, patients with LBD die about 8 years after the first symptoms of the disease appear.

How is Lewy Body Dementia Treated?

Diagnosis for LBD can sometimes be difficult because the symptoms overlap so heavily with other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In order for a doctor to make a diagnosis, the patient must exhibit a progressive decline in cognitive ability as well as two of these three symptoms: fluctuations in alertness and cognitive function, repeated visual hallucinations, and Parkinsonian symptoms.

Autonomic dysfunction and REM sleep behavior disorder are supportive of an LBD diagnosis, though no single test can diagnose LBD. Treatment for this condition is typically aimed toward relieving specific symptoms because there is no cure. Treatment may include medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors or Parkinson’s disease medications as well as other therapies.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of dementia, do not make the mistake of assuming that these symptoms are a natural consequence of aging. Dementia can be very serious and early diagnosis is paramount. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and to discuss treatment options.

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