October is Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month

Second most Common Dementia after Alzheimer’s

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. LBD affects more than a million people in the United States. Lewy bodies are named for Dr. Friederich Lewy, a German neurologist who discovered the abnormal deposits in the brain in 1912. In Lewy body dementia, alpha-synuclein protein forms into clumps inside neurons called Lewy bodies and these begin to form in the parts of the brain that deal with memory function and movement. This process causes neurons to stop functioning and to die, which leads to memory loss, dementia and movement, mood and behavior disorders. LBD usually begins around age 50 or older and it tends to affect men slightly more than it affects women.

Incurable Progressive Disease

LBD is presently a progressive incurable disease. In the early stages people can still function, but as the disease progresses people eventually lose the ability to function and in the late stages they may be totally dependent on others for care. The disease usually lasts for about five to eight years from the time it is diagnosed until death, but there are also cases where death follows after only two years or up to 20 years.

Difficult to Diagnose

At present, there is no kind of test that can diagnose Lewy body dementia. Lewy bodies can only be seen in post-mortem samples. In some cases LBD gets misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia, as some symptoms overlap. However, in Alzheimer’s the memory loss is more significant in early stages whereas hallucinations are more pronounced in LBD in early stages. In some cases LBD gets misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson’s with dementia. Alpha-synuclein protein is involved in the pathology of both Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. Alpha-synuclein is not involved in the pathology of Alzheimer’s, but other proteins like beta amyloid form into plaques and tau proteins form into tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Difference Between Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease

The main difference between Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s with dementia is that in Lewy body dementia the dementia comes on early in the disease with motor problems, whereas in Parkinson’s disease motor problems come on early and the dementia usually comes on very late in the disease, although many people with Parkinson’s never develop dementia at all.

Movement Problems

Movement problems are similar to Parkinson’s disease such as:

  • Tremor
  • Stiffness
  • Walking and balance problems
  • Slow movement

Treatment

Psychiatric Problems

While there is no cure doctors may prescribe medicines. As anti-psychotic meds usually make LBD worse, they must be used with caution.

  • Hallucinations
  • Behavior and personality changes
  • Attention and alertness changes
  • REM Sleep disturbances like acting out dreams

Movement Problems

Some of the drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease might be prescribed, but Levodopa also must be used with caution and in low doses, as it also can make the hallucinations worse.

Risks for Lewy Body Dementia

  • Aging
  • Genetic Risks
  • Parkinson’s disease

Prevention

So far no one has been able to pin-point an exact plan to prevent LBD, but If you have chronic diseases like diabetes make sure your glucose levels are under control. Follow a good healthy lifestyle such as:

  • Eat Fish unless you are Allergic to Fish

A recent scientific study published April 2, 1018, in Scientific Reports showed that a protein in fish called beta parvalbumin (PV) stops the formation of alpha-synuclein in the brain. Salmon, cod and herring were shown to be particularly good.This may help prevent Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. as alpha-synuclein is involved in the pathology of both diseases. At any rate, fish has also been shown to be beneficial at preventing strokes and heart disease.

  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains
  • Cut down on red meat and do not eat any processed meat at all
  • No smoking
  • Cut down on drinking alcoholic beverages or quit
  • Get enough physical exercise
  • Keep your mind active with games, puzzles, hand crafts, reading
  • Get out and socialize

Where to Get Help and More Information about Lewy Body Dementia

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Lewy Body Dementia Association
1-404-975-2322
1-844-311-0587 (toll-free LBD Caregiver Link)
www.lbda.org

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

The Need for Long-term Care

Since Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, the need for long-term skilled nursing care may arise. Make sure to choose a facility that has a high rate of skilled staff per patient to make sure your loved one will get a lot of attention. The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in scenic Galloway Township, New Jersey is a 5-star facility surrounded by eight acres of woods and landscaped gardens. They have a skilled dedicated nursing staff and have a good rate of staff members per patient.

Conclusion

If you or your loved one are suffering from dementia, it is very important to get an accurate diagnosis, since there is one kind of dementia that can be reversed with shunt therapy, which is called Idiopathic Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (iNPH). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or the kind of dementia that sometimes strikes a person with Parkinson’s disease.

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