Lewy Body Dementia
What is Lewy body Dementia?
Lewy body Dementia is a form of dementia characterized by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein that form inside the brain's nerve cells. These deposits are called "Lewy bodies" after the scientist who first described them. The process that leads to the formation of Lewy bodies is unknown. Areas of the brain involved in thinking and movement are most affected in Lewy body Dementia.
Lewy body Dementia can occur by itself, or together with Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's. It accounts for 5-15% of all dementias.
Other names for Lewy body Dementia include:
- Diffuse Lewy body Disease
- Cortical Lewy body Disease
- Lewy body Disease
- Senile Dementia of Lewy Type
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Lewy body variant of Alzheimer's disease
How does Lewy body Dementia affect the person?
In Lewy body Dementia, a person may experience symptoms similar to those of both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. A progressive loss of memory, language, reasoning and other higher mental functions such as calculation of figures is common. The person may have difficulty with short-term memory, finding the right word and sustaining a train of thought. An individual may also experience depression and anxiety. Marked fluctuations in alertness may also be experienced.
Lewy body Dementia usually has a rapid progression. Memory difficulties may not be an early symptom, but can develop as Lewy body Dementia progresses. Visual hallucinations (seeing things which are not real) are common and can be worse during times of increased confusion. The visual hallucinations are often recurrent and typically consist of people, children or animals. People with the disease may also make errors in perception, for example, seeing faces in a carpet pattern.
Some features of Lewy body Dementia can resemble Parkinson's disease. These include rigidity (stiffness of muscles), tremors (shaking), stooped posture and slow, shuffling movements. Sensitivity to medication, especially some sedatives, may exaggerate these symptoms.
What are the risk factors for Lewy body Dementia?
At present, there is no known cause of Lewy body Dementia and risk factors have not been identified. However, Lewy bodies contain a protein associated with Parkinson's disease and are often found in the brains of people with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease, suggesting that the three conditions may be linked in some way. If a family member has Lewy body Dementia, there may be an increased risk of developing the disease. Lewy body Dementia is more common in men than in women.