Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a progressive brain disorder that affects an estimated 1.4 million people in the US alone. While DLB is not as well-known as other forms of dementia, it is the second most common form of neurodegenerative dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)?
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a type of dementia that is caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies in the brain. These Lewy bodies affect the chemical messengers in the brain, leading to cognitive decline and other symptoms. DLB is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, as it shares many of the same symptoms. However, DLB has some unique characteristics that set it apart.
Symptoms of DLB
DLB symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common signs and symptoms include:
- Fluctuations in cognitive function, such as sudden changes in attention, alertness, and confusion
- Visual hallucinations, which can be vivid and detailed
- Parkinsonian symptoms, such as stiffness, tremors, and slowed movement
- Sleep disturbances, such as REM sleep behaviour disorder, where a person acts out their dreams
- A decline in executive function, which can affect planning, decision-making, and problem-solving
- Mood changes, such as depression and anxiety
Diagnosis of DLB
Diagnosing DLB can be challenging, as the symptoms can be similar to other forms of dementia. There is no single test for DLB, so doctors may use a combination of approaches to reach a diagnosis. These may include:
- Medical history and physical examination to rule out other conditions
- Cognitive and neuropsychological tests to assess memory, attention, and language
- Imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans to look for brain changes
- Assessment of motor symptoms such as stiffness, tremors, and gait problems
Treatment of DLB
There is no cure for DLB, but there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These may include:
- Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors to help with cognitive symptoms.
- Medications such as levodopa to manage Parkinsonian symptoms.
- Antipsychotic medications to manage hallucinations and other psychiatric symptoms.
- Therapy such as occupational or physical therapy to improve mobility and independence.
- Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and social engagement.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a progressive brain disorder that can be difficult to diagnose and manage. If you or a loved one are experiencing cognitive changes, visual hallucinations, or Parkinsonian symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. A diagnosis of DLB may require a team of specialists, including neurologists, geriatricians, and psychiatrists. While there is no cure for DLB, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.