Dementia is a general term for degeneration of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.
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Lewy body dementia is marked by early, middle, and later stages. It’s what happens during these stages that makes the two different.
This article explains the stages and progression of Lewy body dementia as it proceeds through three stages.
Understanding Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia symptoms are so similar to those of other forms of dementia that LBD can be misdiagnosed. This might make more sense when you consider that there are many types of dementia.
It may help to think of dementia as one large (and cruel) “umbrella” that slowly robs people of their ability to think, talk, remember, and use their bodies. Many diseases crowd underneath this umbrella, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
- Huntington’s disease
- Lewy body dementia (also known as dementia with Lewy bodies)
- Mixed dementia
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Vascular dementia
People with Alzheimer’s usually suffer greater memory loss than those with LBD.
Otherwise, people with LBD are more likely to:
- Contend with dizziness and falls
- Deal with REM sleep disorder
- Experience more erratic body movements
- Report more hallucinations and delusions
- Struggle with incontinence
With dementia with Lewy bodies, cognitive changes may appear earlier than, about the same time, or shortly after any physical changes surface.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected.
The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally.
Different types of dementia are associated with particular types of brain cell damage in particular regions of the brain. For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. The brain region called the hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain, and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged. That’s why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
While most changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent and worsen over time, thinking and memory problems caused by the following conditions may improve when the condition is treated or addressed:
- Medication side effects.
- Excess use of alcohol.
- Thyroid problems.
Dementia treatment and care
Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure, but one treatment — aducanumab (Aduhelm™) — is the first therapy to demonstrate that removing amyloid, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, from the brain is reasonably likely to reduce cognitive and functional decline in people living with early Alzheimer’s. Others can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The same medications used to treat Alzheimer’s are among the drugs sometimes prescribed to help with symptoms of other types of dementias. Non-drug therapies can also alleviate some symptoms of dementia.
Ultimately, the path to effective new treatments for dementia is through increased research funding and increased participation in clinical studies. Right now, volunteers are urgently needed to participate in clinical studies and trials about Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Dementia risk and prevention
Sprint for Discovery
New research shows there are things we can do to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
Research reported at the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® suggests that adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy diet, not smoking, regular exercise and cognitive stimulation, may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.