Understanding Lewy Body
Lewy body Dementia is a form of progressive dementia identified by abnormal structures in brain cells called "Lewy bodies."* These are distributed in various areas of the brain. A major component of Lewy bodies is a protein called alpha synuclein. The mechanism that leads to the formation of Lewy bodies is unknown. Unlike Alzheimer Disease where the neurons die, in Lewy body Dementia, only 10-15 per cent of neurons disappear, while the remaining neurons do not function.
Lewy body Dementia can occur by itself, or together with Alzheimer or Parkinson's Disease. It is the second most common cause of dementia in the elderly, accounting for 15-20 per cent of all dementias.
Other names for Lewy body Dementia include: Diffuse Lewy body Disease, Cortical Lewy body Disease, Lewy body Disease, Senile Dementia of Lewy Type, Dementia with Lewy bodies and Lewy body variant of Alzheimer Disease.
* (The disease was discovered in 1912 by Dr. Levi, which became "Lewy" in the translation from German.)
How does Lewy body Dementia affect the person?
Lewy body Dementia is similar to Alzheimer Disease in that there is progressive loss of memory, language, reasoning and other higher mental functions, such as calculation. The person may have difficulty with short-term memory, finding the right word and sustaining a train of thought. An individual may also experience depression and anxiety.
Lewy body Dementia differs from Alzheimer Disease in that the progression of the disease is usually more rapid. Marked fluctuations in confusion can vary from hour to hour or week to week. Visual hallucinations (seeing things which are not real) are common and can be worse during times of increased confusion. Unlike Alzheimer Disease, memory difficulties may not be present in the early stage of the disease.
Some features of Lewy body Dementia can resemble Parkinson's Disease. These include rigidity (stiffness of muscles), tremors (shaking), stooped posture and slow shuffling movements. Sensitivity to medication, especially some sedatives, may exaggerate these symptoms.
Who does Lewy body Dementia affect?
Lewy body Dementia is more common in men than in women.
What causes Lewy body Dementia?
At present, there is no known cause of Lewy body Dementia and risk factors have not been identified. In rare cases, the disease is passed from generation to generation.
Is there a treatment for Lewy body Dementia?
At present, there is no cure for Lewy body Dementia. It is sometimes possible to treat symptoms such as depression, and unpleasant hallucinations can be reduced with medication.
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