Lewy Body Disease – Often Mistaken For Parkinson’s Or Alzheimer’sAccording the the experts, Lewy Body Disease is the number two cause of dementia symptoms after Alzheimer’s Disease. Yet few people have heard of Lewy Body Disease, and even doctors still seem to forget about it when testing patients for dementia.
Patients with LBD often leave their doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease. While none of these diseases are curable at this time, there are big differences in how they are medically treated.
Medications for Parkinson’s Disease can cause serious deterioration in the cognitive functioning of someone who actually has Lewy Body. Those being treated with some of the psychiatric medications used to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms can develop serious Parkinson’s-type symptoms if they in fact have Lewy Body Disease rather than Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Lewy Body Disease
Most people with LBD first visit their physicians because they are experiencing symptoms that most often look like Parkinson’s Disease.
Experienced doctors who know to carefully evaluate symptoms will initially look for a steady loss of short term memory, sleep problems and unusual personality and mood swings. In addition to these rather general symptoms, which are also common to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, doctors will ask about hallucinations, frequent falls, a shuffling gait, a tendency to lean to one side when sitting or walking, difficulty finding the right word, and problems with completing tasks once started.
Urinary and constipation problems, an impaired sense of direction, poor depth perception, new problems with regulating blood pressure and temperature (feeling too hot or too cold), and increased difficulty swallowing are also experienced by some Lewy Body patients.
Increasingly poor judgment, delusions and bizarre mood swings, and for many a tendency to lash out physically often accompany LBD.
Lewy Body Disease most commonly appears between the ages of 50 and 85. While it is slightly more common in men than in woman, it can strike either. While the physical symptoms can be debilitating for the patient, the biggest challenge for caregivers is usually coping with the mental changes that accompany the disease.
Treatment of Lewy Body Disease
There is no cure for LBD. Treatment can be difficult because many patients have a lower tolerance for the kinds of medications that are given to help with the movement and cognitive problems associated with LBD. Because LBD patients can be so sensitive to medications routinely prescribed for Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, which may make their symptoms worse rather than better, it is critically important that they be under the care of an experienced neurologist or neuropsychiatrist.
It is often a continuing process of making tiny changes to medications before an appropriate treatment program is identified. As the disease progresses, the doctor will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the program and to make adjustments.
Because the goal of treatment with Lewy Body Disease is to make the patient as comfortable and content as possible and at the same time to support the needs of caregivers, continuing care from a specialist who understands LBD is vital. Early diagnosis and treatment will increase a caregiver’s options and enable someone with Lewy Body Disease to possibly stay comfortably at home longer.