Lewy Body Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments


What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia is the most common type of dementia, besides Alzheimer’s disease. This occurs when a protein buildup called Lewy body is formed in nerve cells in the part of the brain that regulates thinking, memory, and body movements (motor).

Lewy body dementia causes a drastic decrease in the mental abilities of sufferers. People who have Lewy body dementia sometimes experience visual hallucinations, and can no longer focus. Other effects include various physical symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, such as stiff muscles, slow gestures, and tremors.

Lewy body dementia is a common condition. The more common type of degenerative dementia from Lewy body is Alzheimer’s disease.

Lewy Body Dementia Causes

Lewy body dementia is caused by protein clot (called Lewy body) that’s formed in the brain cells that are in charge of controlling the functions of thinking, visual perception, and muscle movements.

It is not yet known why this protein clot is formed, and how it can damage the brain. It is predicted, the problem is that proteins interfere with the signals sent between the brain.

Lewy body dementia also often occurs in people who don’t even have family members who have dementia.

Who is at risk of getting Lewy body dementia?

Some things that make you more at risk of getting Lewy body dementia are:

  • Age older than 60
  • Male
  • Have a family member who has Lewy body dementia, or who has Parkinson’s disease
  • Depression was also found to be related to this disease.

Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms

The symptoms of Lewy body dementia that often occur include:

  • Visual hallucination. Hallucination is usually the first symptoms that appear, and will often appear again. This hallucination can be in the form of seeing someone, an animal, or certain forms that are not actually there. Sometimes it also appears sound hallucination, smells, or touch senses.
  • Body movements disorder. This disorder is similar to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as slowing body movements, stiff muscles, tremors, or a way of being dragged.
  • Body dysfunction regulated by autonomic nervous system. The nervous system that is often affected by Lewy body dementia is a system that regulates blood pressure, pulse, sweat production, and the digestive system. As a result, sufferers often get dizzy, fall, and experience digestive problems such as constipation.
  • Cognitive impairment. Patients will experience thinking disorders (cognitive) similar to those with Alzheimer’s, for example dazed, unable to focus attention, visual-spatial problems, and memory loss.
  • Sleep disorders. Patients may experience REM (rapid eye movement) that can make the body move to follow a dream while sleeping.
  • Depression. Some Lewy body dementia sufferers also experience depression.
  • Loss of motivation.
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Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

There is no one specific test that can clearly diagnose Lewy body dementia. Doctors usually need to do these following actions:

  • Symptom checking, for example whether there are symptoms that are characteristic of Lewy body dementia.
  • Assessment of mental abilities through a number of questions.
  • A blood test, to check that the symptoms are not caused by another medical condition.
  • Brain scans, such as MRI, CT scan, or SPECT, which can detect signals of dementia and other problems in the brain.

Lewy Body Dementia Treatments

At present there is no cure for Lewy body dementia, nor for slowing its progress. However, there are several treatments that can help control the appearance of symptoms for several years, including:

  • Medications to reduce hallucination, daze, drowsiness, movement problems, and sleep disorders.
  • Therapy such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for sufferers who have problems with body movements, daily activities, and communication difficulties.
  • Psychological therapy, for example with cognitive stimulation, is an activities and exercises designed to improve memory, problem solving skills, and language skills.
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Some helpful tips if you live with Lewy body dementia sufferers:

  • Speak clearly and simply. Maintain eye contact while speaking, and speak slowly, in simple sentences, and don’t rush the sufferer to answer.
  • Convey ideas or instructions one by one, not at once. Also use gestures for example by pointing to a certain object.
  • Invite to exercise. Regular exercise can help improve bodily functions, correct behavioral problems, and prevent symptoms of depression. A number of studies also show that exercise can slow the decline in brain function in dementia sufferers.
  • Do brain stimulation. Playing games, crosswords, puzzles, and other activities that involve thinking skills can help to slow down mental decline in dementia patients.
  • Create a nighttime routine. Behavioral problems in people with dementia are usually more severe at night. Make the atmosphere calm and comfortable for sufferers, without interference from the sound of television or noisy children.

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