About Lewy Body diseaseLewy Body disease — sometimes known as Lewy Body dementia or Lewy Bodies disease — is one of four types of dementia that can develop with Parkinson’s disease, said Dr. Wolcott Holt, a neurologist with Essentia Health.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Lewy Body disease — sometimes known as Lewy Body dementia or Lewy Bodies disease — is one of four types of dementia that can develop with Parkinson’s disease, said Dr. Wolcott Holt, a neurologist with Essentia Health.
Lewy bodies are deposits in the nuclei of brain cells that typically occur with Parkinson’s disease, Holt said. Generally, they are confined to a small area of the brain, but in Lewy Body disease they occur throughout the brain. Although the cause of Parkinson’s is known, the cause of Lewy bodies isn’t, he said.
Symptoms can include Parkinson’s-like movements and tremors, suddenly falling asleep, hallucinations and progressive dementia, usually starting with memory loss, Holt said. There’s usually a distinct change in personality.
Of the symptoms Holt mentioned, Sharon DeLeo said she didn’t see any sleep disorders in her husband, David DeLeo, except those caused by medication.
All forms of dementia, except those caused by multiple strokes, are considered fatal diseases, Holt said. Lewy Body disease usually progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s, typically in six to eight years after symptoms are noted, Holt said. Alzheimer’s typically runs its course in eight to 10 years.
Lewy Body is the second- or third-leading cause of dementia in adults older than 65, Holt said, but it’s not nearly as common as Alzheimer’s. The Lewy Body Dementia Association, on its website, says 1.3 million people in the United States have the disease. But it says it may be underdiagnosed by being mistaken for Alzheimer’s.
Nonetheless, it can be difficult to diagnose, Holt said.
“You know your loved one’s changing but you have no idea, and it may not be recognizable to general physicians that this is something going on,” he said. “You get psychometric testing, you get MRIs. The problem is those things don’t necessarily show it. They’re not specific enough.”
Experimental MRIs are starting to be used that may reveal Lewy bodies, he said. But currently the diagnosis can’t be confirmed until the patient’s autopsy takes place. And about 20 percent of the time, it turns out the Lewy Body diagnosis was wrong, Holt said.
More information about Lewy Body disease is available at the Lewy Body Dementia Association website: lbda.org