Dementia is a generic term that describes a group of disorders that impact memory, language, problem-solving, judgement, and other cognitive skills. There are more than 100 types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Less well-known, Lewy body dementia affects more than 1 million individuals in the United States. Learn what Lewy body dementia is, as well as symptoms and current treatment options in this blog from The Bristal.
What is Lewy Body Dementia?
A progressive type of dementia, Lewy body dementia is caused by abnormal protein deposits that impair a person’s ability to think and move, as well as their moods and behavior. The alpha-synuclein protein deposits are called Lewy bodies and are named after the neurologist who discovered them – Frederich H. Lewy, M.D.
There are two types of Lewy body dementia: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. While both are caused by a buildup of Lewy bodies in the brain – they differ in when thinking and movement symptoms begin.
Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia
The symptoms of Lewy body dementia are varied and can affect thinking, moving, mood, sleep, and behavior. Since Lewy body dementia is a progressive condition, symptoms will grow worse over time – impacting an individual’s daily life and limiting their independence. General symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty focusing
- Increased drowsiness
- Reduced attentiveness
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Changes in gait and/or muscle stiffness
- Sleep difficulties that might include talking in your sleep or moving violently while sleeping
- Changes in mood that might include increased feelings of depression, irritability or anxiety
Diagnosing Lewy Body Dementia
There isn’t a test to diagnose Lewy body dementia – instead, medical professionals rely on a variety of exams and tests to make a diagnosis. In addition to a thorough review of your family’s medical history, your doctor might use the following tests:
- Physical exam that checks heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tone and strength, as well as balance, coordination, reflexes, and eye movement
- Cognitive exam that checks memory, language, senses, and balance
- Autonomic function exam that checks breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, digestion, and temperature regulation
- Brain scans to check for abnormal protein deposits
- Sleep test
Treatment for Lewy Body Dementia
There is no cure for Lewy body dementia; however, there are treatments to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Medications are available to treat memory loss, changes in mood, hallucinations, tremors, slowness, and sleep disturbances. Your medical provider may also prescribe physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and mental health counseling.
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