It is estimated that 1.3 million Americans between the ages of 50-85 are affected with Lewy body dementia. This figure places this disease at about 20 percent of all dementia cases. It is currently the second most progressive type of dementia, second only to Alzheimer's.
With these facts in mind, I am astonished that so many medical professionals will just shrug their shoulders when asked what they know about LBD. In actuality, LBD is an umbrella term that refers to Parkinson's disease dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies.
Lewy bodies are protein deposits that develop in the nerve cell regions of the brain. These regions involve the thinking and movement process. LBD is also known for causing severe visual hallucinations, where objects may be mistaken for people or animals. Twenty-plus years ago, it was known as "Little People Disease" and many nursing care facilities would actually refuse to care for these patients because of their intense hallucinations.
The most common symptoms of this disease are:
Dementia: Cognitive disabilities
Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Cognitive Fluctuations: Unpredictable changes in behaviors, problems concentrating, low attention span
Mobility: Parkinson's like symptoms, stiffness, rigidity, tremors, shuffled walk (gait)
Severe reactions to neuroleptics: Side-effects to medications used to treat hallucinations
REM sleep behaviors: Acting out in dreams, night terrors
Lethargy: Disorganized speech, long periods of staring into space
Sadly, there is no known cure for LBD.
If you have a loved one suffering from this type of dementia, you can reach out for help from the Lewy Body Dementia Association. This national organization was formed by a group of caregivers that met online in an LBD support group. Think of it: A great idea and fantastic organization started by a few caring individuals. I love that. These folks are based in the Atlanta, GA. area and can be reached by calling (404) 935- 9767 or www .lbda.org
Researching this disease is a formidable task. Its value, however, is widespread since the results may also help us better understand other forms of dementia. Just like with Alzheimer's, it is essential to continue spreading awareness about all dementia related diseases.