Lewy body dementia, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease dementia. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control). Lewy body dementia causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. People with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention. Other effects include Parkinson's disease-like symptoms such as rigid muscles, slow movement and tremors.
Lewy body dementia signs and symptoms may include:
Hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms, and they often recur. They may include seeing shapes, animals or people that aren't there. Sound (auditory), smell (olfactory) or touch (tactile) hallucinations are possible.
Signs of Parkinson's disease (parkinsonian symptoms), such as slowed movement, rigid muscles, tremor or a shuffling walk may occur.
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. This can result in dizziness, falls and bowel issues such as constipation.
You may experience thinking (cognitive) problems similar to those of Alzheimer's disease, such as confusion, poor attention, visual-spatial problems and memory loss.
You may have rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, which can cause you to physically act out your dreams while you're asleep.
Episodes of drowsiness, long periods of staring into space, long naps during the day or disorganized speech are possible.
You may experience depression sometime during the course of your illness.
You may have loss of motivation.
What Causes Lewy body dementia
Lewy body dementia is characterized by the abnormal buildup of proteins into masses known as Lewy bodies. This protein 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.
What are the Risk factors associated with Lewy body dementia
A few factors seem to increase the risk of developing Lewy body dementia, including:
- Being older than 60
- Being male
- Having a family member with Lewy body dementia or Parkinson's disease
Research has indicated that depression is also associated with Lewy body dementia.
What are the Treatments for Lewy body dementia
Treatment can be challenging, and there's no cure for Lewy body dementia. Doctors treat the individual symptoms. If possible, avoid medications with anticholinergic properties, which can worsen cognition or dopamine agonists, which can cause hallucinations. First-generation antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol (Haldol), should not be used to treat Lewy body dementia. They may cause severe confusion, severe Parkinsonism, sedation and sometimes even death. Very rarely, certain second-generation antipsychotics may be prescribed for a short time at a low dose but only if the benefits outweigh the risks. Because antipsychotic drugs can worsen Lewy body dementia symptoms, it might be helpful to initially try nondrug approaches, such as: tolerating the behavior, modifying the environment or offering soothing responses.
Frustration and anxiety can worsen dementia symptoms. Techniques that may help promote relaxation are music therapy, pet therapy, aromatherapy and massage therapy.