Critter Corner: Ted Turner has Lewy Body Dementia. What is it?

Dear Bebe,

I recently read that Ted Turner announced that he has been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. I’ve never heard of this. Can you tell me something about it and how common it is?

Thanks!

Louie Boddy

Dear Louie,

October is actually Lewy Body Dementia Month, a month intended to spread awareness about a form of dementia that is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Lewy body dementia (the acronym LBD is used by those familiar with it) is the second most common dementia, yet the disease is frequently unrecognized even by doctors.

In one study, almost 70% of people diagnosed with Lewy body dementia saw three consultants before receiving the diagnosis. For a third of people with the disease, getting the correct diagnosis took more than two years.

In Lewy Body dementia, a person develops memory and thinking problems either before, after, or at the same time as he or she develops movement problems that are symptomatic of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, the research is unclear whether these are two separate diseases or actually one single disease, sometimes appearing first as Parkinson’s and then manifesting the symptoms of LBD later in the disease, and sometimes first appearing as LBD, with the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s then manifesting later.

In addition to memory and thinking problems and movement problems, people with this condition can have issues with alertness and concentration, hallucinations and paranoia, acting out dreams during sleep, low blood pressure with standing, depression, and daytime sleepiness, among other symptoms.

Even for people eventually receiving a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, research shows their first diagnosis is commonly incorrect. 26% of people later diagnosed with Lewy body dementia were first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 24% were given a psychiatric diagnosis like depression.

Once a diagnosis is made, physicians can suggest potentially helpful treatments. Medications typically used for Parkinson’s help with slow movements, and drugs developed for Alzheimer’s disease may also help people with Lewy body dementia.

There is a great deal that we still need to learn about Lewy body dementia. Increasing research is a priority of the National Institutes of Health.

Hope this is helpful,
Bebe

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