Besides Alzheimer's, Lewy body dementia (sometimes spelled "dementia with Lewy bodies") is the most common form of progressive dementia. Lewy bodies are protein deposits that form in the nerve cells of the parts of the brain responsible for thought, memory, and movement (motor control).
The symptoms of Lewy body dementia include a gradual decrease in mental capacity. Lewy body dementia patients may have changed states of consciousness and visual hallucinations. Other side effects include typical symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as muscle stiffness, slow movement, trouble walking, and tremors.
Symptoms of Lewy body dementia may include:
- Visual hallucinations: one of the earliest signs could be hallucinations or the perception of objects or events that are not there. Lewy body dementia sufferers may see phantom things, creatures, or people. The hallucinations could be auditory, olfactory, or tactile.
- Abnormal body movements: slowing, muscle stiffness, tremor, and a shuffling gait are all symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Because of this, you risk falling.
- Inadequate control of bodily processes (autonomic nervous system): Dementia with Lewy bodies frequently affects a region of the brain responsible for controlling vital functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and digestion. Orthostatic hypotension (a dip in blood pressure upon standing), dizziness, fainting, falling, involuntary urination, and constipation are all possible outcomes.
- Cognitive problems: you may experience cognitive difficulties comparable to Alzheimer's disease, such as forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, trouble with spatial relations, and impaired remembering.
- Sleep difficulties: Involuntary waking behavior during sleep is a symptom of REM sleep behavior disorder. This could include kicking, punching, yelling, and screaming in the middle of the night.
- Diverging focus: Drowsiness, looking off into space, daytime naps, and jumbled thoughts and words are all possibilities.
- Depression: You could fall into a depressive state.
- Apathy: At some point, you could lose interest.
Protein aggregates called Lewy bodies to accumulate abnormally in people with Lewy body dementia. There is a strong link between this protein and Parkinson's. Alzheimer's disease plaques and tangles are also present in the brains of people with Lewy bodies.
Factors that have been linked to an increased risk of Lewy body dementia include:
- Age: Those over 60 are at particularly high risk.
- Sex: It is more common in men than in women to develop Lewy body dementia.
- Family tree: People are at a higher risk if they have a first-degree relative with Lewy body dementia or Parkinson's disease.
With time, Lewy body dementia worsens. An increase in the severity of symptoms causes these complications:
- Severe dementia
- Aggressive behavior
- High chances of falling and getting injured
- Increased severity of parkinsonian symptoms, such as tremors
- Seven to eight years after the appearance of symptoms, death typically occurs on average
In many ways, the therapy of LBD is similar to that of Parkinson's disease; however, not everyone with Lewy body dementia can take the same medications. To a great extent, patients can learn to live with their physical symptoms with the support of physical and occupational therapy.