Lewy Body Dementia
What is Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia is a related condition to Parkinson’s disease. These conditions involve the accumulation of an abnormal protein in brain cells. These deposits are called “Lewy bodies.”
Most people with Parkinson’s disease have only physical symptoms, such as tremor (shaking), stiffness, slow walking, and difficulty with balance. Older Parkinson’s patients may eventually develop cognitive impairment significant enough to qualify as dementia.
In Lewy body dementia, the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin around the same time as the cognitive symptoms. There is also a tendency for the confusion to wax and wane (“good days and bad days”) and for the person to experience visual hallucinations.
Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms
Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:
- Slow thinking
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with learning and abstract thinking
- Fluctuating severity of symptoms
- Visual hallucinations
- Sensitivity to some medications
- Physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
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Lewy Body Dementia Treatments
The cognitive symptoms of Lewy body dementia often respond to cholinesterase inhibitors (for example, donepezil (Aricept®), galantamine (Razadyne®), rivastigmine (Exelon®).
How common is Lewy body dementia?
Lewy body dementia affects approximately 1.4 million people in the United States. It is also commonly underdiagnosed because its symptoms are very similar to both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Who gets Lewy body dementia?
Lewy body dementia usually begins between the ages of 50 and 85. It affects men slightly more than women. People who have a parent or sibling with Lewy body disease might have a greater risk than someone without a family history.
How is Lewy body dementia diagnosed?
Doctors usually diagnose Lewy body dementia by the combination of physical signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and the mental symptoms of Lewy body dementia. Imaging studies such as PET and SPECT scans are sometimes done. Sleep studies may assist in the diagnosis.