Critter Corner: Signs of Lewy Body Dementia

 

Dear Commander Bun Bun, 

I read recently that both Robin Williams and Casey Kasem had Lewy Body Dementia before they died. I don’t know much about it, except that it has symptoms similar to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Do you know what the signs of Lewy Body Dementia are? 

Lou Ebotee 

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Dear Lou,

Lewy body dementia (LBD) affects 1.4 million people in the United States, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. It is a debilitating disease with no cure, and is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. LBD is caused by abnormal protein particles in the brain that disrupt normal brain functioning. Unfortunately, at this time, diagnosis of the illness, which makes up 20% of all dementia cases, can be confirmed only upon autopsy. However, many of the symptoms are recognizable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of LBD include:
  • Visual hallucinations. Those with LBD may see visual hallucinations, such as colors, shapes, animals, or people that aren’t there. Hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms of the illness, and they may also be in the form of sound (auditory), smell (olfactory) or touch (tactile).
  • Movement disorders. Those with LBD may experience symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, such as slowed movement, rigid muscles, tremors, or a shuffling walk.
  • 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.
  • Cognitive problems. Those with LBD may experience cognitive problems similar to problems experienced in Alzheimer’s disease, such as confusion, reduced attention span, and eventually memory loss.
  • 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.

Currently, there have been breakthroughs in diagnosis of LBD, such as a three-minute test called the Lewy Body Composite Risk Score (LBCRS), developed by Dr. James E. Galvin, a leading neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University. However, it is still in its early stages and not yet widely used. At this time, genetic research is ongoing in the effort to develop disease-modifying therapies, although more funding is needed.  

Hop this is helpful!

Commander Bun Bun

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