“Once diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, on average, individuals tend to live 5 to 8 years.”

—Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, or overlooked, yet it affects millions worldwide. Join me as I explain one of the complicated types of dementia. In this week’s episode, we’ll explore Lewy body dementia, understand its symptoms, causes, stages, and how it can be treated.

WHAT IS LEWY BODY DEMENTIA?

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is characterized by abnormal protein deposits in the brain, leading to chemical changes and the death of brain cells. This results in various challenges with movement, balance, thinking, behavior, and mood. One key feature of LBD is the fluctuation in cognitive ability, making it challenging to determine the disease’s stage.

DO YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS OF LEWY BODY DEMENTIA?

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include memory problems, confusion, strange body movements, sleep disorders, hallucinations, and dizziness. People with LBD may experience auditory or vivid visual hallucinations, which can be distressing or gentle, depending on the image they are seeing. This type of dementia also affects the body’s automatic functions, causing issues like changes in blood pressure, temperature sensitivity, and loss of smell.

WHAT CAUSES LEWY BODY DEMENTIA?

While the cause of Lewy body dementia remains unknown, it involves abnormal clumping of a protein called alpha-synuclein in areas of the brain responsible for thinking and movement. These clumps, known as Lewy bodies, interfere with the production of neurotransmitters, resulting in issues with muscle movement, memory, and thinking abilities.

CHALLENGES IN DIAGNOSING LEWY BODY DEMENTIA

Diagnosing Lewy body dementia can be tricky. Its symptoms can be similar to those of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Typically, a team of specialists, including primary care providers, neurologists, and psychiatrists, is needed for a thorough evaluation. Diagnostic tests may include cognitive assessments, brain scans, blood tests, and sleep studies.

HOW DOES IT PROGRESS?

In the early stages of Lewy body dementia, memory remains intact, but confusion and mild cognitive changes may appear. Attention span can vary and hallucinations and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder can occur.

As Lewy body dementia progresses, cognitive decline worsens, attention span decreases, and confusion increases. Movement problems develop, leading to falls and difficulty with tasks like bathing and dressing. Communication becomes harder, swallowing may be challenging, and paranoia or delusions may worsen.

In the late stages, muscles become very stiff and sensitive to touch. People need help with most daily tasks like eating and bathing. Speech becomes very difficult, often turning into a whisper or stopping completely.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

While there is no cure for LBD yet, there are treatments that manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Medications like cholinesterase inhibitors may help maintain cognitive function.

RESOURCES

You can learn more by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website at:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/dementia-with-lewy-bodies

Visit my website at https://melissabphd.com/ to learn more.

Download the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease: https://melissabphd.com/10warningsigns/

Download the checklist for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: https://melissabphd.com/diagnosischecklist/

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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