Lewy Body Dementia is one of the most common forms and causes of dementia- often observed in, but not restricted to, the elderly. Lewy Body Disease or Lewy Body Dementia shares many commonalities with Alzheimer’s disease- also observed mainly in the aged.
Lewy Body Dementia is named after the scientist-doctor who discovered Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies are a type of spherical structures which are found in brain in unusual cases. These spherical structures are aberrant, built up protein which crop up in the brain and enlarge into clumps and masses. These structures of bodies are considered responsible for depletion, death and degeneration of nerve cells in brains. This can lead to mental impairment and disorders, mainly dementia. Lewy Body Disease is sometimes referred to as Diffuse Lewy Body Disease. Apart from dementia and Alzheimer’s, Lewy Bodies can also result into Parkinson’s disorder.
Many might wonder how lewy bodies are formed and what causes them to form in some people’s brains while some others escape. Unfortunately as of today, there are no known causes for lewy body formation. In case you are wondering if you inherited it from your parents, dispel those thoughts. No evidence exists that lewy bodies are hereditary. They are observed at random, in both men and women. However, men seem to be more prone to Lewy Body Disease than women. As to why this is the case, remains to be known yet.
While it is true that the jury is out when it comes to causes of Lewy Body Disease, there are very many identifiable and peculiar symptoms that should set off red flags. Some of them are as follows:
- Hallucinations: One of the most important and telling symptoms of Lewy Body Disease is seeing, imagining, or feeling things, people or animals that do not exist in reality. Such disorientation is common when suffering from this disorder. Not just visual, but auditory, olfactory and even tactile hallucinations have been observed. Keep an eye out for such oddities and complaints. Hallucinations can be hard to spot and identify if one is not observant.
- Movement impairment: If movements feel gritty, slowed down and muscles feel rigid, it can be symptom of presence of lewy bodies. These symptoms are called Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Autonomic Nervous System or ANS malfunction: If you observe poor or deteriorated body function regulation, be wary. Lewy Body Dementia can hamper digestion, blood pressure, perspiration and other functions of the ANS.
- Visuospatial difficulties: Illusions and perception problems is a common symptom when it comes to LBD. Gauging depth, length, height may get affected. Object orientation, sense of direction and spatial awareness may also suffer.
- Impaired attention and concentration: Listlessness, drowsiness, abnormal somnolence, is all symptoms of existing lewy bodies in brain.
- Strange, rapid or unprovoked fluctuation of mood and mental state is another symptom to watch out for: Excessive and unusual moodiness- which can range from untenable euphoria to redundant gloom- can be a symptom. If such fluctuation of mood occurs frequently, it should alarm you
It is important to watch out for these symptoms in yourself or in your loved ones. Failure to do so will result into a non-treated, rapid degeneration of the person suffering from Lewy Body Dementia. LBD is very similar to Alzheimer’s in its effects, but differs insofar as its rapidity. It deteriorates at a much faster rate and causes much damage in little time, eventually leading to complete dependence.
As mentioned before, proven risk factors don’t yet exist when it comes to LBD. However, some of the people who could watch out are –
1) Males older than 60 years of age.
2) People who have family members or forbearers who suffered for Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or such disorders.
3) Depression has often been linked with lewy bodies and may be a precursor. A person suffering from recurring depression might be at risk.
Cure for Lewy Body Disease does not exist yet. But there are treatments that are available to delay and contain the inevitable degeneration to a certain degree.
Medication is available to curb some of the symptoms. Hallucinations can be kept at bay by partaking of it. One must, however, be cautious as the anti-hallucination medication is likely to cause muscle stiffness and rigidity. Medication is also available to treat the Parkinson’s symptoms, but these are characterized by an increase in hallucinations. In this sense, the medication can be a double-edge sword.
Curbing the symptoms and slowing down the pace of degeneration is the only solution to Lewy Body dementia. Cholinesterase Inhibitor Drug has proved to be impressively effective in achieving the same. Neuroleptic medicines can also help with the problem. However, the side effects of such drugs are many. What’s more, patients suffering from dementia and related disorders are more susceptible to the side effects.
Physical therapy, psychotherapy and occupational therapy are some ways to attain repose for the patient. It may also allay the symptoms like depression, and sleep pattern problems.
The best solution however, undoubtedly, is offering love and care to the person suffering from Lewy Body Disease. As there is no cure for this affliction, one needs to exhibit increased sensitivity towards the patient. It is important to realize that the person suffering from cognitive disorders experiences humiliation and frustration of an unbelievable degree. It is therefore crucial to offer them care without being condescending.
Many support groups exist for the caregivers as well as the friends and family of a person suffering from Lewy Body dementia. These can help relieve stress and offer a fresh perspective. Support groups can also be a system that one can rely on during difficult times.
One of the most important ways that you as a caregiver can help the patient with LBD is to make sure you also take care of yourself. If you don’t get the physical and emotional support you need, you won’t be able to provide the best level of care, and you face becoming overwhelmed. LBD can be difficult and the best way to deal with it is indeed, creating an atmosphere of care, trust and safety for all involved.