sailor girlLBD (Lewy Body Dementia)

Lewy body dementia was first described in 1961 and has been increasingly recognized over the past 5-10 years.  Sometimes it occurs alone as the main illness and sometimes it occurs simultaneously with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

Cortical Lewy bodies are the pathological features of Lewy body dementia. These are abnormal brain cells which are distributed in different degrees throughout all areas of the brain.

Lewy body dementia is similar to Alzheimer's disease with progressive loss of memory, language, calculation and reasoning as well as other higher mental functions.  However the progress of the illness may be more rapid than seen in Alzheimer's disease.

Anybody can develop Lewy body dementia.  Post mortem studies examining the brains of people with dementia suggest that it is relatively common.  It appears to affect men and women alike.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

    Fluctuations in confusion.  The person may have acute episodes of confusion which vary from hour to hour.  Because the confusion is not prominent all the time, caregivers may sometimes feel that the person is pretending to be confused.

    Hallucinations may occur at any time but are often worse during the times of acute confusion.  The most common hallucinations are visual and involve animate objects.  Most often people and usually in the same place.  For example, a child always sitting in the same place.

    Sensitivity to some medications, usually sedatives.

    Some patients develop the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as rigidity, tremor, stooped posture and slow shuffling movements.  This may be followed later by the fluctuating cognitive performance, visual hallucinations, memory loss and a progressive dementia.  Others experience the cognitive symptoms first and go on to develop Parkinsonian features later in the disease.

    Some Lewy body dementia patients may also have problems with their short term memory, word finding difficulties, problems sustaining a line of thought and locating objects in space.  They may also experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.

At present there is no cure for Lewy body disease.  However it is sometimes possible to treat some of the symptoms.  For example if depression accompanies the disease it will usually respond to antidepressant therapy.  Occasionally the hallucinations may be reduced with medication.

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