Understanding Lewy Body Dimentia
Often called “the most common disorder you’ve never heard of,” Lewy body dementia is a brain disease that causes progressive decline in cognitive abilities. The second most common type of dementia, Lewy body tends to take a backseat to Alzheimer’s disease, which receives far more media attention. According to experts, however, about 1.3 million Americans suffer from Lewy body dementia, with many receiving inadequate or inappropriate treatments due to misdiagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms?
Like Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia causes a decline in brain function. What makes Lewy body dementia unique, however, is the prevalence of visual hallucinations, which often manifest as animals, objects and people that aren’t there. This can result in strange behavior, including conversations with deceased loved ones.
Other symptoms include:
- Rigid muscles
- Shuffling walk
- Slowed movement
- Bowel issues
- Reduced attention span
- Physically acting out dreams
- Disorganized speech
- Staring into space
- Loss of interest
While experts have not yet identified an exact cause, they believe it has something to do with brain cell death related to protein deposits named after Frederick Lewy who was first to discover them.
Getting Proper Treatment
Sadly, most people live for only about eight years after onset of Lewy body dementia. Many also experience rapid decline in mental function. While there is no cure for Lewy body dementia, cholinesterase inhibitors, Parkinson’s disease medications and antipsychotic medications can reduce symptoms in some people.
Unfortunately, many patients must navigate a diagnostic odyssey of tests and multiple visits to a range of clinicians before they are able to get an accurate diagnosis. Since early intervention can make such a huge difference for many patients, these delays can have a serious impact. If you suspect a loved one may be suffering from Lewy body dementia or some other type of cognitive issues, be sure to keep a detailed record of all symptoms to aid the diagnosing process and hasten treatment.