Over 1 million people in the United States are currently living with Lewy body dementia (LBD). It is a progressive and incurable disease that worsens as time goes on. Though it is a common condition, often people don’t know much about LBD until a family member receives a diagnosis. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with LBD or who is currently undergoing examination for the condition, here are six facts to help you learn more.
#1 Lewy Bodies Were Discovered in the Early 1900s
In the early 1900s a German neurologist by the name of Dr. Friedrich Lewy was working in the laboratories of Dr. Alois Alzheimer. While studying the brain of a deceased Parkinson’s patient, Dr. Lewy noticed abnormal clusters that are known today as Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies are comprised of alpha-synuclein protein. The protein is present in healthy people and is important to normally functioning neurons in the brain. However, when alpha-synuclein proteins form into Lewy bodies, they impair the ability of neurons to do their job and eventually cause the neurons to die.
#2 Three Beginnings of LBD
LBD usually presents in one of three ways:
- Symptoms related to movement begin first and the person later develops dementia. In these cases, a person may be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the dementia is called Parkinson’s disease dementia.
- Though less common, some people first develop neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations and behavioral issues.
- Some people’s symptoms begin with memory and cognitive problems, which can result in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The characteristic features that indicate LBD develop later.
#3 Lewy Bodies are Present in Other Diseases
People with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease may also have Lewy bodies present in their brains. Similarly, people with LBD may have the plaques and tangles that are present in Alzheimer’s. Researchers believe that the similarities in the diseases may point to a problem with the way the body processes alpha-synuclein proteins.
#4 Lewy Bodies Affect Several Brain Areas
Lewy bodies can be present in any of the following areas of the brain, causing a variety of symptoms:
- Limbic Cortex: The part of the brain that helps control behavior and emotions.
- Midbrain: The midbrain helps control movement.
- Cerebral Cortex: The area that controls language, perception, processing information, and thought.
- Olfactory Pathways: Areas of the brain that control the sense of smell.
- Brainstem: The part of the brain that helps maintain sleep cycles and keeps a person alert.
- Hippocampus: Allows a person to create new memories.
#5 There is No Single Test for LBD
As with many other diseases with dementia, diagnosing LBD is more complicated than a single test. In fact, the only way to definitively diagnose LBD is through an autopsy after death. Currently, doctors can only give a clinical diagnosis, which means that they base their judgement on the symptoms a person has.
#6 LBD Symptoms are Treatable
The symptoms of LBD can be treated using medications. The medication used for LBD are also used to treat similar symptoms in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. However, it’s important that people who suspect LBD be diagnosed with the disease early since some of the medications used for other diseases can have an adverse effect on people with LBD.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with LBD, it’s important to start thinking early on about the care they will need as the disease progresses. Hiring a senior care provider through an agency can help patients with LBD to remain in their homes for longer. Senior care providers can help by keeping the person safe when dementia symptoms affect their thinking and judgement. They can also assist with dressing, bathing, cooking, toileting, and light household tasks.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Fairfax, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.