Most people associate dementia with Alzheimer's disease. But 1.3 million Americans have another form of dementia called Lewy body dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. This progressive neurological disorder is named for the Lewy bodies -- tiny deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein -- found in certain areas of the brain. Over time, these proteins accumulate and cause the death of brain cells. This results in impairments in certain cognitive functions, such as memory, language processing, emotions and behavior, as well as control of movement. Some experts identify two types of Lewy body dementia: dementia with Lewy bodies, in which cognitive symptoms appear within a year of neurological problems such as slowness of movement and impaired balance, and Parkinson's disease dementia, in which cognitive symptoms appear more than a year after the onset of movement problems.
Difficult to diagnose. No specific brain scans or lab tests can pinpoint the presence of Lewy body dementia, although a type of scan, DAT, or dopamine transporter SPECT scan, can support the diagnosis. Diagnosis of Lewy body dementia is based on identifying the symptoms -- which can vary widely in severity from person to person -- and then ruling out other possible causes such as certain drugs. The progressive decline of mental function is the primary symptom of Lewy body dementia, but what sets it apart from Alzheimer's disease is the presence of subtle symptoms referred to as parkinsonism because they're not fully suggestive of Parkinson's disease and because hallucinations are common at the beginning of Lewy body dementia. Some symptoms common to early Lewy body dementia and other forms of dementia include:
Certain symptoms are more pronounced in Lewy body dementia than in other forms of dementia:
Source: John Hopkins White Paper- Health Alerts
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