Having Parkinson's disease can cause memory loss and cognitive problems. Sticky protein lumps called Lewy bodies can cause dementia in people with Parkinson's disease by interfering with the brain's regular activities.
Another characteristic of other brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's, is Lewy bodies' presence.
This article covers the types, signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of Lewy Body Parkinson's disease. And how they can lead to dementia are also discussed.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system that mainly kills cells in the substantia nigra area of the brain. In this area, nerve cells make dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls movement and other bodily functions. Dopamine levels drop as nerve cells die off.
According to the Parkinson's Foundation, almost 1 million Americans are living with the condition, and scientists expect that figure to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. Regarding sex, men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's than women.
Parkinson's disease and its wide range of symptoms tend to worsen slowly over time. Some of the possible signs and symptoms are:
- Tremor, or shaking, that typically begins as a "pill-rolling" tremor when the person is at rest
- Bradykinesia, or involuntary pauses in movement
- The inflexibility of one's limbs
- Problems with walking and balance
A variety of Parkinson's diseases exist. The most common categories are:
- Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease: The most prevalent kind of Parkinson's is idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Idiopathic refers to a medical disease where the underlying cause cannot be determined.
- Vascular Parkinsonism: A kind of Parkinson's disease that can be triggered or exacerbated by a series of small strokes.
- Parkinsonism caused by drugs: Some antidepressants or antipsychotics can cause this disease. Withdrawing from the drug that caused the problem usually leads to full recovery in a few days, weeks, or months, but in some cases, the effects can last a lifetime.
Individuals with Parkinson's disease symptoms are more likely to have comorbid illnesses if they are older. Scientists have found a connection between this abnormal buildup of proteins and other changes in the brain and atypical Parkinsonian diseases. Those things are:
- Dementia with Lewy bodies: In people with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), an abnormal accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein occurs in the brain.
- Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS): The symptoms of the corticobasal syndrome (CBS), the rarest atypical Parkinsonian condition, typically manifest in a single leg after the age of 60.
- Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP): The most prevalent degenerative form of atypical Parkinsonian disease is progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). In most cases, PSP manifests itself in a person's mid-60s and is linked to the buildup of tau protein in the brain.
- Multiple System Atrophy (MSA): The average age of onset for multiple system atrophy (MSA) is the mid-50s. Abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein has also been linked to this disorder.
Lewy Body Dementia
According to the Alzheimer's Association, 50 to 80% of patients with Parkinson's disease also develop dementia.
Changes in memory, behavior, and the ability to finish tasks can all be signs of dementia caused by a slow loss of cognitive function. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and about 10 million new cases are found yearly.
Multiple forms of dementia may involve Lewy bodies, according to the research. Dementia with Lewy bodies is caused by the accumulation of Lewy bodies, which are protein aggregates made primarily of alpha-synuclein. Dementia results from the damage caused to brain cells by these deposits.
According to experts, Lewy body dementia is the third most common kind of dementia, accounting for an estimated 5- 10% of all cases. This disorder is similar to Parkinson's disease in that it causes memory loss, changes in behavior, and the slow, steady loss of motor skills.
Lewy body dementia can be divided into two categories:
Dementia due to Parkinson's disease (PDD)
PDD is given to people with Parkinson's disease who have lost their mental abilities for at least a year. Dementia can be diagnosed at any point in the progression of its symptoms, from the mildest to the worst.
The following are some of the potential challenges that can arise from PDD:
- Understanding abstract concepts
As dementia worsens, a person with PDD usually needs help to do even the most basic tasks.
When cognitive decline is the first sign or when both mental and motor symptoms appear and get worse simultaneously, this is a sign of DLB.
Symptoms of DLB include but are not limited to those listed below.
- Shifting levels of consciousness and focus
- Recurring, vivid hallucinations of sight
- Movements like punching and yelling in one's sleep are among the causes of a disrupted night's rest.
- Impairments in mobility, most notably sluggish walking
Some of the less common signs of DLB are:
- Hearing voices or other noises that are not there; auditory hallucinations.
- Multiple slips and falls
- Lack of motivation, disinterest, and apathy
- DLB is a risk factor for the development of disorders like anxiety and depression that happen at the same time.
Parkinson's disease and Lewy bodies
Dementia and other cognitive impairments are risks for people with Parkinson's disease. Lewy bodies are found in brain diseases like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. They can make muscles stiff and make it hard to move and stand straight.
The similarities between Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia have led researchers to speculate that the two disorders may share a common relationship to the brain's processing of alpha-synuclein.
Since you can't find Lewy bodies in a living organism, the only way to find out what they do is to look at dead bodies.
As of right now, dementia treatment options are limited at best. A team of medical professionals and therapists can help patients learn to cope with their condition and find ways to manage the symptoms with medicine.
All of the following drugs may be prescribed by your doctor:
- Antipsychotics: Dementia patients may get relief from behavioral and psychological symptoms by using antipsychotic medications. Haloperidol is one example (Haldol).
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: A cholinesterase inhibitor is a type of medicine that stops the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for learning and memory. Rivastigmine is an inhibitor of cholinesterase (Exelon).
- Clonazepam (Klonopin): Those with insomnia may find relief with clonazepam (brand name Klonopin).
- Levodopa: Levodopa (Sinemet) is a drug that helps Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia patients feel better when they move.
Dementia patients may have their personal care staff there to help them. The group might consist of the following:
- Neurologists: these are doctors who focus on the brain and nervous system.
- Physical therapists: PTs aid patients with mobility difficulties through individualized exercise and training plans.
- Speech-language pathologists: Specialists in speech-language pathology help people who have trouble eating or communicating.
- Occupational therapists: Therapists who specialize in occupational therapy help patients with daily activities like eating and bathing by adjusting their homes to accommodate their needs.
- Mental Health therapists: Therapists specializing in mental health aid those with dementia in managing their symptoms and making plans for the future.
When Lewy bodies accumulate in the brain, they cause the death of nerve cells in those areas, a process known as degeneration. This causes dementia with Lewy bodies, which is a slow but steady loss of mental ability. Depending on when the cognitive symptoms show up, Lewy body dementia is either Parkinson's disease dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies.
Memory loss and the ability to think are two symptoms of dementia. Problems with walking, hallucinations, tremors, and disorientation may appear as the illness advances. There is now no treatment that will reverse the effects of dementia. But medicine and therapy can help people deal with their illness and stay as independent as possible for as long as possible.