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Lewy Body Dementia – An Overview
Although dementia is a well-known condition, many people have never heard of body dementia or, more specifically, Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). This is due, in part, to the fact that it goes misdiagnosed and is generally underdiagnosed. The symptoms of LBD are very similar to other conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and so LBD isn’t always correctly identified or treated. Although not well known, LBD is far from being a rare disease. According to research from 2011, it affects an estimated 1.3 million people and their families in the United States and over 100,000 people in the UK.
Lewy Body Dementia was first discovered and eventually named after Friederich H. Lewy, a scientist who studied Parkinson’s Disease in the early 1900s. During the course of his research, Lewy discovered protein deposits which interfered with the normal functioning of the brain and how it controls the body. These proteins were identified by their effect on the body as well as their location within the brain stem. In many cases these proteins go on to cause symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. If these proteins begin to diffuse to other parts of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, they begin to disrupt perception, thinking and behavior. This combination of symptoms which affect both the body and the brain is the condition known as LBD.
LBD may be present in conjunction with Parkinsonian symptoms, but LBD can be diagnosed as the primary disease affecting a patient with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s as a secondary condition. There is a wide variety of symptoms associated with LBD but the core symptoms are trouble with general cognition, such as attention and alertness and visual hallucinations. Other symptoms can include sleep disorders, dementia, trouble with falling or fainting and psychiatric disturbances. When these symptoms begin to occur in a patient, LBD should be considered along with other potential conditions. This careful diagnosis can ensure that proper treatment begins as soon as possible.
LBD is a multi-system and multi-symptom disease and treatment plans can vary depending on the presentation of the illness as well as how quickly it was diagnosed. Medications can help with some symptoms, while physical therapy helps to mitigate other problems. During treatment and beyond, mobility devices can help patients manage their symptoms as well as being beneficial for their physical therapy and providing safety and security. As one of the common symptoms deal with balance and vision, rails in the bathroom can help give a patient the freedom to take care of their own hygiene while providing a safe environment.
As more is learned about LBD the number of reported cases is expected to rise. Since its symptoms can so closely mimic those of other diseases, such as Parkinson’s, it is important to consider it carefully, and separately, as part of the diagnostic process. Early detection can help mitigate many of the long term effects of LBD as well as leading to more effective treatment.