What is Lewy Body Dementia or LBD?
More than a million Americans have been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia which is a type of progressive dementia that destroys brain cells and can kill if the symptoms go untreated. It starts off as forgetfulness, progresses to loss of motor skills and overall mental ability.
LBD is thought to be caused by an excess of alpha-synuclein protein in the brain which is thought to be a root cause of other types of dementia as well. LBD is a gradual onset dementia meaning that it develops over time and creeps up slowly. There are many symptoms that usually have to be treated individually.
Risk Factors for Lewy Body Dementia
While the cause of LBD is not known yet, aside from the excess protein excretion, there are some known risk factors. Age is definitely a risk factor since adults over 60 years old are more likely to be diagnosed than younger people. Men are also at a greater risk of developing LBD than women are. Genetics also play a role and people who have a history of Parkinson’s disease or LBD in their family are more likely to be diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.
Symptoms of LBD
Hallucinations: These hallucinations are not only visual, they can also be sounds, smells, or physical sensations.
Movement problems: The movement problems typically start out as not a big deal or slightly worrisome and progress over time to include slowed movements, muscle stiffness, feeling tremors or shakiness, falling, and similar issues.
Confusion and Changes in Alertness: Cognitive difficulties develop and primarily present as confusion, difficulty concentrating, and short attention span.
Mood and Emotional Challenges: People with LBD may suffer from mood swings, anxiety, feeling a lack of joy in their daily lives, and depression.
Sleep disorders: Difficulty sleeping is also a common symptom of LBD.
The 7 Stages of Lewy Body Dementia:
- Slight abnormalities in behavior, but no real impact on function or life.
- Some very slight sleeplessness, forgetfulness, or hallucinations may begin.
- Falls or shakiness may begin but remain rather mild.
- Usually when diagnosis occurs, symptoms go from mild to moderate and are now more noticeable. Tremors, difficulty talking, frequent falls, and daytime sleepiness are now more pronounced. Supervision during the day is required.
- Serious memory loss, disorientation, and hallucinations are present. The disease is now severe and undeniable. The patient can no longer live alone and need to be supervised around the clock.
- Patient is now at risk of developing health issues like UTIs and bowel incontinence. They probably no longer recognize their family members and are likely unable to speak.
- Final stage. The patient can no longer function on their own cognitively or physically. They can no longer walk. They need a lot of help with basic daily activities.
There is no absolute treatment for Lewy Body Dementia, but there are treatments that can help slow progression and relieve symptoms for the patient. Under the care of a doctor patients are typically able to prolong their functionality and quality of life way more than if the symptoms go unchecked and untreated. Early diagnosis is the key to getting ahead of the progression of the disease.
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