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How Lewy Body Disease Can Cause Dementia

Non-Alzheimer's Causes of Dementia : Page 3

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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2. Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

What it is: Lewy body disease occurs when protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies (named for Friederich Lewy, who discovered them in the early 1900s) impede normal cognitive function. Some researchers consider DLB the second most common form of dementia, accounting for up to 20 percent of cases. Others believe DLB may be a subtype of Alzheimer's disease rather than a separate disease.

How the symptoms compare to Alzheimer's: Symptoms of both can include confusion, problems with concentration, and some memory impairment. Hallucinations tend to be more common. Like Alzheimer's, DLB is progressive. People with Alzheimer's have good days and bad days, but people with DLB may experience changes more frequently (even from one hour to the next -- and these changes may seem quite extreme.

REM sleep behavior disorder, which causes movements, gesturing, and speaking during sleep and confusion upon awakening, is often considered an early sign of DLB.

People with DLB also experience problems with mobility, similar to those of Parkinson's disease. These include movements that are slow, stiff, or shaky, trouble balancing, and a shuffling walk.

How it's diagnosed and treated: A complete medical workup can help identify symptoms of DLB and rule out other possible causes. As with Alzheimer's, the presence of dementia with Lewy bodies can only be confirmed with an autopsy.

There are no drugs approved for DLB. Alzheimer's medications are sometimes given or, in the case of movement problems, drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease. Other treatment is similar to that for Alzheimer's.