Lewy Body Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that is associated with the build-up of lewy bodies, affecting the chemicals in the brain. These chemical changes can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior and mood. Lewy body dementia is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disease and is one of the most common cause of dementia among people.
Lewy body dementia can be of two types. They are- dementia with lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease with dementia. Both the types of dementia have similar chemical changes in the brain. Dementia with lewy bodies generally starts with a decline in thinking ability while Parkinson’s disease dementia starts with a movement disorder and symptoms like slow movement, muscle stiffness, tremors and a shuffling walk. However, after a period of time, both have similar symptoms in person.
The main cause of lewy body dementia is due to a protein build-up known as alpha-synuclein in the brain. They play a number of important functions, helping brain cells to communicate with each other. In LBD, alpha-synuclein forms into clumps inside neurons, occuring in a particular region of the brain but having a widespread effect on brain and bodily functions. Moreover, as the disease is progressive, it means that symptoms are mild in initial phase and degenerate as over time. It typically affects people aged above 50 years of age and is also more common among men than women. The disease can lasts for 5 to 7years after being diagnosed but the time span can also range from 2 to 20 years.
Diagnosis of lewy body dementia is difficult because firstly, symptoms in the early stage mild and secondly, it is often confused with its other cousins like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, a combination of symptoms, tests like nuclear imaging tests and heart test’s and questionnaires may help the doctor to diagnose the condition.
There is no definite treatment or cure for lewy body dementia but will depend on overall health, age and symptoms. It usually lasts for 2 to 20 years but can be seen lasting between 5 to 7 years after diagnosis. However, a comprehensive treatment plan will include medications along with counseling and physical therapy. Medicinal treatment of lewy body dementia will include treating the symptoms that the person is having. For cognitive symptoms, medicines called cholinesterase inhibitors are given. They are also given to people suffering from Alzheimer’s. The movement changes in a person like slow movement and muscle stiffness is treated with Parkinson’s disease called levodopa. Visual hallucinations are treated with antipsychotic drugs and cholinesterase. Sleep disorders are treated with medications like melatonin and or colazepam. However, it should be noted that anti-cholinergic drugs should not be given to people having lewy body dementia. Also, anti-psychotic medications like anti-depressants should also be avoided but newer kind of atypical anti-psychotics can be given at the lowest possible dose for a minimum time period. Remember to consult your doctor before having any medication or if you are experiencing any side effects to the medication.
Along with medication, it is important to also undergo physical, speech, occupational and music therapy for leading a better quality of life.
Symptoms of lewy body dementia includes- visual hallucinations, movement disorders, poor regulation of body functions like high blood pressure and excessive sweating, cognitive problems like confusion, memory loss, sleeping disorder like REM (rapid eye movement) and insomnia, fluctuating attention, depression, apathy, depression, anxiety, agitation and delusions. These symptoms often coincide with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Any person exhibiting all of the above symptoms is eligible for treatment of LBD.
Any person not showing any symptoms of dementia or memory loss is not eligible for the treatment of LBD.
As the medications prescribed for treating lewy body dementia is the same as that of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, there are a number of side effects and health complications. Medicinal drugs treating cognitive symptoms like cholinesterase inhibitors can cause nausea and diarrhea. Medicines treating movement symptoms like levodopa can cause hallucinations and behavioral or psychotic changes. Drugs like clonazepam and melatonin used for treating sleep disorders can cause dizziness, unsteadiness and problems with thinking.
People taking anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medicines can have severe side effects like increased confusion, worsened Parkinson’s, extreme sleepiness and low blood pressure. A potentially deadly side effect of anti-psychotics is neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Anti-psychotic drugs can even cause death among the elderly suffering from lewy body dementia.
As the treatment for lewy body dementia include multiple drugs which treat the specific symptoms experienced by a person, post-treatment measures include making lifestyle changes to lead a better quality of life. The most important change involves dietary alterations that will include eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates and also gluten foods. Try to limit using aluminum-based cookware for cooking or heating food items in ovens or microwaves. Limiting the intake of processed foods, alcohol and tap water also helps in overall well-being of the body. Try to include healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, omega-rich fish and nuts.
Include multivitamins supplements and do regular exercise or some sort of physical activity. However, its important to note that creating a peaceful environment without any clutter and distractions helps a person to think, focus and use their cognitive functions more effectively.
Recovery is subjective meaning it depends on the person's age, over all health and the type of symptoms that he or she experience. However, people suffering from lewy body dementia does not recover as there is definite cure of the disease.
As the treatment for lewy body dementia includes medications and palliative care, the cost of the treatement starts from Rs. 1000 and go up to Rs.2000.
No, the results of the treatment is not permanent and it is lifelong disease that lasts from 5 to 7 years after being diagnosed.
Alternative treatments for lewy body dementia involve pet therapy, music therapy, aromatherapy and massage. All of these treatments works better in conjunction than medicines as it helps a person to calm and relax their nerves and brain.