Lewy body dementia
Lewy body dementia
Lewy body dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease, causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. It may also cause visual hallucinations, which may take the form of seeing shapes, colors, people or animals that aren't there or, more complexly, having conversations with deceased loved ones.
Another indicator of Lewy body dementia may be significant fluctuations in alertness and attention, which may include daytime drowsiness or periods of staring into space. And, like Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia can result in rigid muscles, slowed movement and tremors.
In Lewy body dementia, abnormal round structures — called Lewy bodies — develop in regions of your brain involved in thinking and movement.
Lewy body dementia signs and symptoms may include:
The cause of Lewy body dementia isn't known, but the disorder may be related to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.
Some scientists have suggested there's a Lewy body variant of Alzheimer's disease. Conversely, Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer's simply may coexist in some people.
Although the cause of Lewy body dementia isn't clear, several factors appear to increase the risk of developing the disease. They include:
Lewy body dementia is progressive. Signs and symptoms worsen, causing:
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor, who may refer you to a dementia specialist — usually a neurologist or a psychiatrist.
What you can do
You might also want to bring a family member or close friend who can tell the doctor about symptoms you might not have noticed.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
For the doctor to make a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, you must have experienced a progressive decline in your ability to think, as well as two of the following:
No single test can diagnose Lewy body dementia. Instead, doctors diagnose the disease through a process of elimination — ruling out other diseases and conditions that may cause similar signs and symptoms. Tests may include:
Assessment of mental abilities
Treatments and drugs
Treatment can be challenging, and there's no cure for Lewy body dementia. Instead, doctors treat the individual symptoms.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Each person with dementia experiences symptoms and progression differently. Consequently, techniques to care for each person vary. Caregivers may need to adapt the following tips to individual situations:
People with dementia often experience a worsening of their symptoms when they are frustrated or anxious. The following techniques may help promote relaxation.
Coping and support
People with Lewy body dementia often experience a mixture of emotions — confusion, frustration, anger, fear, uncertainty, grief and depression.
You can help a person cope with the disease by listening, reassuring the person that he or she still can enjoy life, providing unconditional love and doing your best to help the person retain dignity and self-respect.
Caregivers must watch closely to make sure the person with Lewy body dementia doesn't fall or lose consciousness or react badly to medications, and they must reassure that person during times of delusions or hallucinations.
Looking after yourself
Many people with Lewy body dementia and their families can benefit from counseling or local support groups. Contact your local agencies on health or aging to get connected with support groups, doctors, resources and referrals, home care agencies, supervised living facilities, a telephone help line and educational seminars.
Last Updated: 2010-09-17
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