Lewy Body Disease: Everything You Need to Know

When protein clumps known as Lewy bodies accumulate in the brain, the result is a kind of dementia known as Lewy body dementia (LBD). They disrupt the functioning of the brain areas responsible for learning, memory, emotion, and sleep. Since LBD is a progressive disorder, its symptoms get worsen over time. There is now no treatment that can reverse the disease, but you can manage it.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

If Lewy bodies are found in your brain, you may suffer from Lewy body dementia (LBD). Some neurons develop protein clumps called Lewy bodies (brain cells). They damage your brain's natural repair processes, causing severe harm to neurons in the parts responsible for cognition, behavior, motor control, and sleep.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is progressive, which begins with mild symptoms but worsens over time. LBD is among the most common causes of dementia in persons over 65. LBD's symptoms may be mistaken for other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Although no treatment currently may cure LBD wholly, some drugs can help manage its symptoms. Non-medical treatments, such as physical therapy and speech therapy, may potentially help you or a loved one.

Why has Lewy body dementia been related to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease?

Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies are two forms of the same clinical condition known collectively as Lewy body dementia. Providers will often misdiagnose LBD as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's at first due to the similarity in symptoms.

  • Parkinson’s disease: Some persons are initially diagnosed with Parkinson's disease because they display signs of a movement abnormality characteristic of the disease. However, if symptoms of dementia emerge later in life, their diagnosis is modified to PDD.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Some persons with memory or cognitive problems are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the presence of specific additional symptoms may point to the presence of dementia with Lewy bodies simultaneously. Alterations in focus, awareness, and cognitive capacity; difficulties with movement; visual hallucinations; and many more are all hallmarks of LBD.

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia (LBD) symptoms are often confused with those of other neurological diseases. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and changes over time. You can classify the various LBD symptoms as follows:

  • Problems with movement
  • Cognitive symptoms
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Dysautonomia
  • Shifts in mood and behavior

How is Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosed?

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is super complicated to diagnose. Initial signs of LBD are confusing and similar to those of other brain and mental health disorders; thus, they are frequently misdiagnosed.

A definitive diagnostic test for Lewy body dementia does not yet exist. For a proper diagnosis, it could be necessary to consult with the following:

  • Neurologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Geriatricians

Together, they can use test data and symptoms to diagnose "probable LBD."

An LBD diagnosis is probable if two of the following four core symptoms are present. It is considered feasible if only one is present, along with a history of gradual cognitive loss that interferes with everyday activities:

  • Cognitive and behavioral swings.
  • Visual hallucinations that keep coming back.
  • Insomnia is characterized by abnormal behavior during REM sleep.

Less than a year after the onset of movement issues, some persons with Parkinson's disease may be diagnosed with Lewy body dementia because of the cognitive symptoms they are experiencing.

Medical professionals use the following methods to help diagnose LBD and rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms:

Detailed medical history and physical exam: First, your doctor will want to know more about your medical history by asking about any previous treatments and conditions. Then, they will do a thorough physical exam. Don't be shy about letting them know about any mental, emotional, behavioral, movement, sleep, or physical changes you've noticed. They may also speak with witnesses to your symptoms, such as relatives and friends. You should also inform your doctor of any vitamins, herbs, supplements, or OTC drugs you regularly take.

Imaging test: Because the changes in your brain due to LBD often resemble those found in people with vascular dementia, imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan often don't assist in diagnosing Lewy body dementia. However, they can help you rule out other conditions causing your symptoms, like a brain tumor or bleeding.

Neurological examination: this test measures your cognitive abilities. It tests your cognitive talents like recall, vocabulary, focus, and spatial orientation.

Blood test: Your doctor may request a panel of blood tests to evaluate your overall health, including thyroid function, vitamin B12 levels, and sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and HIV. These examinations can help rule out any other dementia causes.

Sleep studies: these require spending the night in a laboratory. During this exam, your heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, breathing, movement of your limbs, voice, and other things will be recorded. Your REM sleep activity may be captured as well.

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