Understanding Lewy Body Dementia

In this day and age, memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia often are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This is understandable because Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequently diagnosed type of dementia. However, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not synonymous with one another. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, but there are others. This includes what is medically known as Lewy Body dementia. In this article, we provide you with an overview of Lewy Body dementia, which is also known as LBD.

Extent of Lew Body Dementia

A precisely accurate count of the number of people in the United States afflicted with Lewy Body dementia is not possible. With that said, an estimated 1.4 million women and men in the United States have been diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia.

Some people have Lewy Body dementia and have not properly been diagnosed. These misdiagnosed people typically have been told they have some other cognitive disorder (like Alzheimer’s). Medical professionals note that Lewy Body dementia is not only underdiagnosed but also under-treated (as a consequence of diagnosis issues). The Lewy Body Dementia Association reports that Lewy Body dementia, or LBD is the second most common form of dementia and also the most frequently misdiagnosed form of dementia.

What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy Body dementia is an umbrella term for two related diagnoses. These are Parkinson’s disease and dementia with what is scientifically known as Lewy bodies.

Lewy bodies are the abnormal buildup of protein into masses, according to the Mayo Clinic. These masses themselves are called known as Lewy bodies. This protein comprising Lewy bodies is also associated with Parkinson’s disease. People who have Lewy bodies in their brains also have the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

There is an array of symptoms associated with Lewy Body dementia. The most commonly occurring of these symptoms are:

  • Visual hallucinations. In many cases, an early sign a person may have Lewy Body dementia is that the individual begins to see things that are not present. Visual hallucinations often recur. People with Lewy body dementia might hallucinate everything from shapes to animals to people. It is also possible for people with Lewy Body dementia to experience Sound (auditory), smell (olfactory), or touch (tactile) hallucinations as well.
  • Movement disorders. Signs of Parkinson’s disease (parkinsonian signs), such as slowed movement, rigid muscles, tremors, or a shuffling walk, can occur and be associated with Lewy Body dementia. These different types of movement issues can lead to falling.
  • Poor regulation of body functions (autonomic nervous system). Blood pressure, pulse, sweating, and the digestive process are regulated by a part of the nervous system that is often affected by Lewy body dementia. As a result, Lewy Body dementia can result in sudden drops in blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension), dizziness, falls, loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence), and bowel issues such as constipation.
  • Cognitive issues. A person with Lewy Body dementia might have thinking or cognitive issues. These problems can appear similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. They can include confusion, poor attention, visual-spatial problems, and progressive memory loss.
  • Sleep difficulties. Lewy Body dementia can result in what is known might have rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder or REM sleep behavior disorder. When this symptom of Lewy Body dementia occurs, a person might physically act out his or her dreams while asleep. This might involve behavior such as punching, kicking, yelling, and screaming (again, while sleeping).
  • Fluctuating attention. Episodes of drowsiness, long periods of staring into space, long naps during the day, or disorganized speech are possible symptoms of a person with Lewy Body dementia.
  • Depression. An individual might experience clinical depression with Lewy Body dementia.
  • Apathy. An individual suffering from Lewy Body dementia also might lose motivation.

Lewy Body Dementia and Diagnosis Confusion

As mentioned previously, Lewy Body dementia regularly is misdiagnosed. In addition to being misdiagnosed, there are situations in which an individual has mixed dementia. By that, it is meant an individual may have changes in his or her brain that stem from two or three forms of dementia, including:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia