Critter Corner: Could Loss of Smell Nearly 10 Years Prior Signify Lewy Body Dementia?

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

I recently heard that loss of smell could signify Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) as much as 9.3 years before it starts. Is this true? If so, are there any other lesser-known symptoms that I should be aware of? Thanks for your help!

Lew E. Boddie

Dear Lew,

Yes, what you heard could very well be true. A study published in the journal Psychogeriatrics found olfactory dysfunction “preceded” the onset of memory loss by up to 9.3 years in patients with “probable” Lewy Body Dementia.

Olfactory dysfunction is defined as the reduced ability to smell during sniffing or eating. For the study, researchers investigated the olfactory dysfunction of 90 patients with probable Lewy body dementia, paying close attention to their medical records and symptoms in the years preceding.  Loss of smell preceded the onset of LBD between 1.2 and 9.3 years.

Lewy Body Dementia symptoms can also present unexpected physical and mental issues that many caregivers wouldn’t normally attribute to LBD. Here are some lesser-known symptoms:

  • Nonvisual hallucinations: Visual hallucinations are often associated with Lewy Body Dementia and often, those with the disease, may report seeing people or things that are not present. We hear much less about nonvisual hallucinations, however. Nonvisual hallucinations may include hearing a conversation or sounds that are not occurring.
  • Nervous system problems: The part of the nervous system that controls automatic functions may also be affected by LBD. This can cause symptoms that care partners should be on the lookout for including sensitivities to heat or cold; fluctuations in body temperature; loss of sense of smell (as mentioned above); constipation; and sexual dysfunction.
  • Visual-Spacial issues: People with LBD may have trouble judging distances when reaching for items, navigating around furniture, or stepping down a stair. This can lead to falls and injuries. Difficulty processing and reacting appropriately to visual information can greatly affect the person’s daily life.
  • Inability to recognize changes in facial expression: According to a study published by the National Library of Health in the UK, patients in the early stages of LBD had difficulty recognizing certain facial expressions. Researchers examined the characteristics of recognition of the six facial expressions of “happiness,” “sadness,” “fear,” “anger,” “surprise,” and “disgust” for 107 people aged 60 years or more. In patients with Lewy body dementia, cognitive decline reduced recognition of all of the facial expressions except for happiness.
  • Poor regulations of body function: Blood pressure, pulse, sweating, and digestive process are regulated by a part of the nervous system that is often affected by LBD. This can result in dizziness, falls, and bowel issues.
  • Sleep difficulties: Those with LBD may have a sleep disorder called RBD (REM Behavior Disorder) that can cause you to physically act out your dreams while you’re asleep.
  • Fluctuating attention: Those with LBD may have frequent episodes of drowsiness, long periods of staring into space, long naps during the day, or disorganized speech.
  • Depression: Those with LBD may experience depression sometime during the course of the illness.

For more details about Lewy Body Dementia, please read Mr. Farr’s articles on the subject here.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Lewy Body Dementia or any other type of dementia, please call the Farr Law Firm as soon as possible to make an appointment to plan ahead.

Hope this helps,

Hayek

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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