Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

What is Lewy body dementia?  In the simplest of terms, it is a degenerative and progressive brain disease that falls under the umbrella of dementia.  It’s the third most common type of dementia following Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.  It can be difficult to diagnose Lewy body due to some similarities to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The name Lewy body is derived from the clumps of protein that are found in the brain that are called Lewy bodies.  When these clumps build up, they can cause issues with the normal brain functions such as behavior, movement, memory, thinking, and mood.

There are five main symptoms of Lewy body dementia:

  1.  Visual Hallucinations - visual hallucinations and/or delusions are very common.  Things like seeing people, animals, and shapes that aren’t there.  A person might even have conversations with people who are absent or deceased.
  2. Cognitive Impairment - issues with visual perception which can cause falls, problems with organization and decision-making skills, difficulty with ADL’s, limited attention span, and struggling with swings between being alert and being confused or drowsy might manifest themselves.
  3. Sleep disruptions - issues can range from extreme sleepiness to insomnia.  Sleep behaviors might also be affected by screaming, hitting, and sleep talking episodes.
  4. Movement and mobility problems - the patient might develop an uneven or abnormal gait, stiff limbs, or tremors.
  5. Variations of normal bodily processes - disruptions of normal bodily functions such as blood pressure, urination, swallowing, and body temperature are common.

So, what is the life expectancy for someone who has been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia?  On average a person usually lives five to seven years after the disease has started and they usually pass away from pneumonia or other illnesses.

There’s no pattern of stages with Lewy body and the disease continues to get worse over time.  However, the rate of decline varies from one individual to the next.

Lewy body (and all forms of dementia) should be diagnosed and treated by a qualified neurologist or geriatrician.  Also, there are many support groups available to help the caregiver deal with the many challenges that a dementia diagnosis present.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

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