Dementia with lewy bodies

Head | Neurology | Dementia with lewy bodies (Disease)


Dementia is often used term which describes the symptoms of a large group of illnesses that cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. Dementia symptoms include loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and normal emotional reactions.

Symptoms can range from traditional parkinsonian effects, such as loss of spontaneous movement (bradykinesia), rigidity (muscles feel stiff and resist movement), tremor, and shuffling gait, to effects similar to those of Alzheimers disease, such as acute confusion, loss of memory, and loss of, or fluctuating, cognition. Visual hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms noted, and patients may suffer from other psychiatric disturbances such as delusions and depression. Onset of the disorder usually occurs in older adults, although younger people can be affected as well.

Causes and Risk factors

Dementia with Lewy bodies is caused by the degeneration and death of nerve cells in the brain. The name comes from the presence of abnormal spherical structures called Lewy bodies inside the cells – it is thought these may contribute to the death of brain cells.

Patients that suffer from dementia with Lewy bodies tend to see things (visual hallucinations) or experience stiffness or shakiness (parkinsonism), and their condition tends to fluctuate quite rapidly, often from hour to hour or day to day. These symptoms make it different from Alzheimer’s disease.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment is symptomatic, often involving the use of medication to control the parkinsonian and psychiatric symptoms. However, patients should be aware that antiparkinsonian medication that may help to reduce tremor and loss of muscle movement may actually worsen such symptoms as hallucinations and delusions.

Similarly, neuroleptic drugs prescribed for psychiatric symptoms may in fact markedly worsen the movement symptoms. In general atypical antipsychotic medications are more successful than older drugs such as haloperidol. ...

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