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lewy body dementia symptom progression

Lewy body dementia was named in 1912 after the doctor who identified it. Itaccounts for approximately 15% of all cases of dementia. Lewy body dementiais also known as DLB (dementia with Lewy bodies), Lewy body, a variant ofAlzheimer’s disease, diffuse Lewy body disease, cortical Lewy body disease andsenile dementia of the Lewy body type. Lewy bodies are tiny protein deposits foundin nerve cells that affect the normal functioning of chemical messengers in thebrain. Lewy bodies are also found in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease.The cause of Lewy bodies is as yet unclear.

Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease, with symptoms worsening overtime, often over several years. People with this form of dementia will often havefeatures of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. These features includememory impairment, disorientation and communication difficulties comparable toAlzheimer’s disease and muscle stiffness, limb trembling and loss of facial expression.

In addition to these features, the symptoms and abilities of a person with Lewybody dementia may fluctuate by the hour. This leads to considerable distress forthe individual and those around them, as it is difficult to explain and convinceothers that there is a problem. The Alzheimer’s Society  suggests that otherfeatures experienced by people with Lewy body dementia include:

• clear, detailed visual hallucinations

• fainting or falls

• a tendency to fall asleep in the day and experience disturbed, sleepless nights.

The scenario below is an example of the way one person was affected by Lewybody dementia.

As with other forms of dementia, Lewy body dementia is more common in people over 65 years and affects men and women equally. Diagnosis can be difficult to establish as the features may be consistent with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. However, visual hallucinations and trembling or stiffness in limbs should inform the diagnosis.

There are important considerations when treating people with Lewy body dementia. Neuroleptic drugs used to treat symptoms of severe mental health problems can worsen the Parkinson-type symptoms of someone with Lewy body ementia and may even lead to death.

 

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