It is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. The condition causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. In Lewy body dementia, protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in regions of your brain involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control).
- Memory loss
- Fluctuating attention
- Sleep disturbances
- Visual hallucinations
- Muscle rigidity
- Parkinsonian movement features (tremor)
- Difficulties with things like problem solving and planning
- Frequent episodes of drowsiness
- Long periods of staring into space
- Lethargy or disorganised speech
The cause of this disease is still being researched. However, there are plaques and tangles just like Alzheimer’s disease.
DLB starts rapidly and decline is quite faster than Alzheimer’s disease. Initially the symptoms flare up and then there may be some leveling in later stages. The course of illness varies from person to person. The average life span is detected to be between 5-7 years.
The diagnosis of DLB is quite complicated. It can be confused with Parkinson’s disease or depression. Most of the times the patient needs to be seen more often and detailed history should have the sequence of progression to get better insight.
Diagnosis is made on the basis of the history, neurological and neuropsychological examination, blood tests and brain scans. However, establishing an early and accurate diagnosis is difficult.
Management of the condition requires multidisciplinary approach.
- Generally in other forms of dementia, psychotic symptoms are treated with anti-psychotics but people with DLB may show adverse reaction with anti-psychotics
- Rehabilitation to restore as much mental or physical ability as possible
- General management with the drugs licensed for dementia and Parkinson’s
- Speech and language therapy to help the person make the best use of their remaining abilities
- Occupational therapy to help the person cope better and more safely at home
As the causes are unknown, preventive strategies are yet to be devised.
- Try joining a support group, this may help to get some useful and practical tips from other carers who have been in the same situation
- The person suffering from DLB may have insight about what’s happening to them, hence reassurance and support helps
- Day care option can be explored to get a break
- Approach professionals for management of cognitive decline and behaviours
- When unable to take care, look for institutional facilities