Healthy Living

Are You Suffering From Lewy Body Dementia or Something Else?

Are You Suffering From Lewy Body Dementia or Something Else?

Key Takeaways

  • Lewy body dementia has no relation to genetic or heredity factors.
  • This form is one of the most common forms of dementia, but very few cases get diagnosed due to lack of research and knowledge on this disease.
  • The real cause of lewy body dementia is not yet known.

Facts you should know about LBD

1. Lewy body dementia (LBD) is one of the most common types of degenerative dementia. Just like Alzheimer’s disease, LBD is a degenerative form of dementia that is caused by the presence of lewy bodies. This causes the unusual collection of a protein known as alphasynuclein in the brain.

2. LBD can manifest itself in three ways:

Movement disorder- LBD can manifest in an individual and restrict movements. It can eventually develop into dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

Cognitive disorder- In this manifestation, the cognitive part of you brain or memory may get impacted. A number of times this can get misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's and is later detected as LBD.

Neuropsychiatric disorder- In some people, LBD starts with symptoms like hallucinations, behavioral issues and other complicated mental issues. 

3. LBD is curable: Correct and appropriate diagnosis is the first step to treating LBD. The course of treatment prescribed for LBD is very similar to other mental illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, and the medications duly provide symptomatic relief for various underlying problems.

4. Early diagnosis is essential: Early and clear diagnosis can help patients profit from the benefits of early treatment. Certain patients may react to certain medications differently as the disease progresses, and hence early detection can prevent the symptoms from worsening.

What is lewy body dementia?

You may not have heard much about this disease, but you will be surprised to know that it is not rare. Close to 1.4 million individuals are likely to be affected by this disease in United States alone. Not many come away with the diagnosis of lewy body dementia, since the symptoms of this condition are quite similar to those in diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s. In fact, a number of LBD cases are misdiagnosed.

LBD is a multi-system disease in which the symptoms are very similar to those of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Like the other two conditions, LBD is known to affect the brain by causing behavioral changes that can in turn impact cognition, sleep and behavior of the patient. The symptoms of LBD can develop over time, and sometimes it may take up to a year for one to be diagnosed with LBD. Like many other mental illnesses, LBD causes a slow and gradual loss of mental abilities.

The disease is named after Frederick H. Lewy, a neurologist who discovered the brain abnormalities associated with LBD.

What causes lewy body dementia?

There aren't any specific causes that have been identified to cause dementia with lewy bodies, and there are no linkages found with heredity and genetics.

Symptoms associated with LBD

LewyBodyDementia

As we mentioned earlier lewy body dementia is a slow and gradual disease wherein the symptoms worsen gradually. Most of the symptoms of LBD are overlapping with symptoms of other diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.  However, there are some signs of the disease that can be alarming and should ring the warning bells:

  • Gradual decline in mental abilities: LBD patients can have lower attention span and experience reduced mental alertness and confusion.
  • Hallucinations: Patients suffering from LBD are often known to hallucinate seeing animals, people and visions that don't actually exist. Depression can also be a symptom along with the hallucinations.
  • Inability to carry out everyday tasks: Like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, LBD can hamper your everyday ability to carry out the simplest of tasks.
  • Sudden loss of balance: Persons suffering from LBD are often prone to falling and can even faint.
  • Disturbed sleep: LBD can often result in sleep-related disorders like insomnia, screaming during sleep, hitting and so on.

Diagnosing lewy body dementia

Diagnosis of lewy body dementia is often misinterpreted as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, thereby delaying the treatment of the disease. It is extremely crucial to diagnose the type of mental illness one is suffering from. The one-year rule of diagnosing this type of disease is often used by doctors in ascertaining the form of the dementia. If you suffer from cognitive signs and symptoms within one year from the start of movement related issues, then you are likely to be confirmed with a diagnosis of lewy body dementia. Like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the diagnosis of lewy body dementia is also done based on symptoms. You may speak to your physician or medical practitioner about your symptoms. A number of doctors are unaware of lewy body dementia and are likely to diagnose your disease as other forms of dementia. If you feel you or your loved one may have been misdiagnosed, then you may want to seek advice from a specialist. If you consult a neurologist, he or she is likely to recommend certain tests that will determine lewy body dementia, ruling out other possible brain-related conditions. The common approach adopted by a neurologist would include:

  • Taking the patient history: A complete analysis of the patient history in terms of the illnesses, medications, movement tests etc are likely to give a small picture to the specialist.
  • Tests: Tests can be conducted to rule out other underlying illnesses and hormonal deficiencies that could be triggering the symptoms.
  • Brain scan: Imaging tests can be recommended to determine the extent of damage and any brain shrinkage or abnormalities that could link the causes and the symptoms.

Medication and treatment of LBD

There is no specific cure available presently to treat LBD, however there are medications that work towards treating the symptoms associated with LBD. Doctors generally work with patients to control the cognitive, motor and psychiatric disorders experienced, and they prescribe medications to deal with them. Some of the drugs that are prescribed to deal with LBD symptoms can be similar to the ones prescribed for treating Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease. Medications are given with a lot of considerations as adverse reactions from the medications could occur for a number of people. An early diagnosis is important for the doctors to administer the right medication that benefits the patient positively. Any side effects experienced upon consumption of these medications should be immediately discussed with your doctor. Medications prescribed to treat severe symptoms of LBD include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors, such as donepezil and rivastigmine, to relive symptoms associated with cognitive disabilities. These have also been found helpful in treating psychiatric and hallucination symptoms.
  • Levodopa is prescribed to help patients regain their movement and overcome rigidity of the body.

Living with lewy body dementia

Living with a disease like LBD is not easy, especially when you know it is a disease that isn't really curable. Talk to your friends and family and seek help to ensure a better quality of life. Living with lewy body dementia can be depressing, so don't try to cope with this disease all by yourself. Behavioral changes that occur due to lewy body dementia are likely, so it's important to tell your family about the condition you are suffering from to help them to understand you better. As the disease progresses, it could get difficult for you to manage everyday tasks like taking medicines, managing bills, driving and so on. Take help from your family or get a professional caregiver to assist you in carrying out such everyday tasks. Eventually, the most important consideration would be your own safety. Therefore, you should speak to your healthcare giver about how you can plan your safety as you are dealing with this disease.