Sometimes in the brain, clumps of a protein called Lewy bodies will form. Their accumulation can disrupt normal brain function, including memory, coordination, judgment, and disposition. Dementia is a condition in which you lose the ability to think clearly and carry out routine tasks like eating, bathing, and dressing.
After Alzheimer's, Lewy body dementia (LBD) is among the most frequent forms of dementia. People aged 50 and over are more likely to experience it. There are two basic kinds:
- Dementia with Lewy bodies: Movement difficulties are a common symptom of Lewy body dementia. Within a year, you begin exhibiting behavioral and cognitive abnormalities characteristic of Alzheimer's. Also, you might have hallucinations or think you see or hear things that aren't there.
- Parkinson’s disease dementia: Parkinson's Disease Dementia symptoms manifest initially as movement problems. Memory loss occurs much late in the progression of the disease.
No treatment exists for Lewy body dementia at this time. However, there are ways to alleviate symptoms temporarily. Additionally, medical professionals have a better grasp of what sets LBD apart from other illnesses.
How is LBD Different from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s?
There are several parallels between these diseases. However, the timing and severity of symptoms for patients with LBD vary significantly.
However, unlike Alzheimer's disease, LBD may not result in temporary memory loss. Patients with either illness struggle with paying attention, alertness, thinking, and awareness. On the other hand, with LBD, issues like these tend to be transitory. A person with LBD may experience hallucinations, especially in the early stages of the illness. However, hallucinations are common in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Those who suffer from LBD are also more likely to make violent movements and act out their dreams while sleeping. Disorders involving behavior while in the REM stage of sleep are known by this name. It can be the initial indicator that a person has LBD.
Movement problems like muscle stiffness and tremors are common in those with LBD and Parkinson's disease. But cognitive problems (dementia) usually don't show up in Parkinson's patients until the end of the disease. Sometimes, they don't have any symptoms of it at all. In Parkinson's disease with dementia, dementia and other LBD symptoms show up much earlier than in LBD alone. Drugs used to treat Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease is ineffective for people with LBD.
Alpha-synuclein is the protein responsible for the formation of Lewy bodies, which were named after the scientist who first found them. When they build up, they stop the right amount of two essential brain chemicals from being made. Acetylcholine is one of these chemicals that plays a role in learning and memory. Dopamine, the other, influence your movement, mood, and sleep.
Researchers have yet to pinpoint what sets off the accumulation of Lewy bodies in the brain. They are also unsure of the factors that cause LBD to strike some individuals while others are immune to it.
The chance of getting a particular illness increases when certain risk factors are present. A higher risk of LBD is seen in those with Parkinson's disease or REM sleep behavior disorder.
Warning signs are always individual and may not appear in everyone. A lot of the time, they are conditional on the particular LBD in question. They could start mild and gradually worsen with time.
Changes in LBD patients' thinking, mood, behavior, movement, and sleep patterns mirror those seen in those with other forms of dementia. These are some of the symptoms:
- Problems with deciding, estimating, multitasking, planning, organizing, or remembering
- Having trouble focusing
- Hallucinations Caused by Staring Into Space
- Shuffle, or a slow, deliberate walk
- Impairment in balance or frequent falls
- Contracted muscles
- Shifting or trembling sensations
- Hunched back
- A disease characterized by abnormal behavior during REM sleep (acting out dreams, including making violent movements during sleep or falling out of bed)
- The habit of taking long naps during the day (as much as 2 hours every day)
- Inability to fall asleep or sleeplessness
- Restless legs syndrome is a condition in which a person has a strong need to move their legs even when they are sitting still.
- Sadness or disinterest
- Delusions, including mistakenly assuming a loved one or close friend is a fraud
Getting a Diagnosis
LBD cannot be diagnosed with a simple blood or urine sample. Because it is similar to other types of dementia, it is hard for doctors to figure out how to treat it early. This is why it is common practice to rule out other potential causes of the presenting symptoms.
Depending on the situation, your doctor may order tests like:
- A doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask about your medical history.
- Assessment of hormone and vitamin status through blood testing. Erratic dosages can also lead to different forms of dementia.
- Brain imaging with CT or MRI can detect subtle alterations associated with various types of dementia.
- IQ, memory, and logical reasoning tests
Speak to your healthcare providers when it's time to make that phone call. If your symptoms worsen or there are any noticeable changes in your behavior, demeanor, or speech, your doctor will probably recommend calling them. Mood swings like becoming more depressed or having suicidal thoughts are included in this category.