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“New” dementia affects 1.3 million Americans

10/04/2010

(Atlanta, GA) – September 28, 2010 – There is a good chance your primary care physician is not familiar with the second most common type of progressive dementia in the elderly: Lewy body dementia (LBD). Despite its prevalence, people with LBD have to see an average of 3 doctors before the LBD diagnosis is made. The Lewy Body Dementia Association is leading the first, national, grass-roots, LBD awareness campaign, A Week To Remember, from October 10 to 16, 2010 in order to raise awareness about LBD in the general public and in the medical profession.

Lewy body dementia is a degenerative brain disease that has been described by LBD family caregivers like trying to manage Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a psychiatric disorder rolled into one disease. Despite an estimated patient population of 1.3 million people in the U.S., LBD is most often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Early and accurate diagnosis of LBD is of critical importance, because people with LBD respond more poorly to certain medications for behavior and movement than people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, sometimes with dangerous or permanent side effects.

Recognition of LBD as a common form of dementia grew to prominence among neurologists only within the past 5 years; general awareness of LBD as a disease has yet to make its way to primary care physicians. “Given the growing population of older Americans, at some point in your life LBD will likely affect someone you know,” said Angela Herron, President of LBDA’s Board of Directors. “The general public, including many primary care doctors and nurses, have never heard of LBD. So in addition to trying to manage a very difficult disease, LBD families find themselves in the unanticipated role of educator and advocate.”

The second-most common type of progressive dementia in the elderly, LBD symptoms include dementia plus any combination of: unpredictable levels of cognitive abilities, attention and alertness, changes in movement or gait, visual hallucinations, a sleep disorder where people physically act out their dreams, and severe medication sensitivities. The severe medication sensitivities in LBD make it a very difficult disease to treat without worsening already problematic LBD symptoms.

Quick facts about LBD

  • LBD is more common in men than women.
  • People with LBD are more functionally impaired than people with Alzheimer’s disease with similar cognitive test scores.
  • There is a shorter disease course in LBD to both long term care admission and death than in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • People with LBD may respond more favorably to certain dementia medications than people with Alzheimer’s

To learn more about LBD or to help raise LBD awareness as part of A Week To Remember, visit www.lbda.org.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association

The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) is the leading voluntary health organization in raising awareness of Lewy body dementias (LBD), supporting patients, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. LBDA's Scientific Advisory Council is comprised of leading experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan in research and clinical management of Lewy body dementias. To learn more about LBDA, visit www.lbda.org.

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