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Recognizing when it’s not Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
FACT: Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the most misdiagnosed form of dementia.
FACT: LBD is the second most common cause of progressive dementia behind Alzheimer’s disease.
FACT: LBD affects approximately 1.4 million Americans, most often after the age of 50.
FACT: LBD is NOT usually hereditary.
HOW IS LBD DIAGNOSED AND WHAT TYPE OF DOCTOR DO I NEED TO VISIT?
Doctors diagnose LBD based on the patient’s history. examination, and potentially other blood tests or brain scans to exclude other causes of dementia, movement disorders or behavioral problems. There are no medical tests that can diagnose LBD with absolute certainty during life, so when a doctor suspects a person has LBD based on their clinical features, they are diagnosed with “probable LBD.” The only way to be certain of a diagnosis is with an autopsy.
Primary care practitioners should be told about any cognitive, emotional, movement, or other physical changes. If LBD is suspected, a neurologist is recommended for diagnositic evaluation and management. Neurologists have the specialized knowledge to necessary to diagnose specific types of dementia or movement disorders, as do psychiatrists and geriatric psychiatrists.
Some neurologists have advanced or specialty training in the care of people with dementia and/or parkinsonian movement disorders. Neuropsychologists also play an important role in helping diagnose LBD and testing memory and cognitive functions. Geriatricians, who specialize in treating older adults, are also usually familiar with the different forms of dementia.
A diagnosis by specialists very familiar with LBD may be accurate up to 90% of the time.
IS THERE A CURE FOR LBD?
Currently, there is no cure for this disease. Practitioners prescribe medications to reduce symptoms. Research is continuing so that better medications can be developed and a cure can be found.
WHAT CAUSES LBD?
The causes of LBD are not yet well understood, but research is ongoing in this area. There are probably multiple factors involved, including genetic and environmental risk factors that combine with natural aging processes to make someone susceptible to LBD.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF LBD?
This condition impairs thinking, such as memory, executive function (planning, processing information), or the ability to understand visual information. Patients with LBD may have fluctuations in attention or alertness; problems with movement including tremors, stiffness, slowness and difficulty walking; hallucinations; and alterations in sleep and behavior.