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Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with abnormal deposits of alpha-synuclein in the brain (Wakabayashi, Tanji, Odagiri, Miki, Mori, & Takahashi, 2013). It is characterized by progressive cognitive impairment (with early changes in complex attention and executive function rather than learning and memory), recurrent complex visual hallucinations, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, depression, and / or delusions (Iranzo, 2021). DLB is one of the most common causes of dementia (Wakabayashi et al., 2013).
Lewy body dementias (LBD) is an umbrella term that refers either a diagnosis or DLB or Parkinson’s disease dementia. The terms are used interchangeably and can be confusing at times. Both diseases are under this term LBD because both diagnoses involve the same pathophysiological changes in the brain and over time, individuals develop similar symptoms (Wakabayashi et al., 2013).
Lewy bodies are clumps of alpha-synuclein proteins found in nerve cells areas of the brain that control memory and motor skills (Harmon, 2020). Lewy bodies are the cause of DLB and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers do not know much about Lewy bodies. They do not know why they appear in the brain or how they cause abnormalities. However, they have linked the formation of Lewy bodies to low levels of acetylcholine and dopamine in the brain as well as a connection loss between nerve cells (Harmon, 2020). The presence of Lewy bodies in the brain causes nerve cells to die and a person to lose brain tissue.
The only definitive way to diagnose DLB is with a postmortem autopsy. Because symptoms mimic those of other forms of dementia, sometimes doctors mistakenly diagnose people with DLB as having Alzheimer’s disease. After conducting a physical examination and blood tests, a doctor will talk to the patient (and sometimes a close family member) about the individual’s medical history and known symptoms. Doctors are mostly able to diagnose DLB based on several predominant symptoms, these include movement problems, fluctuating attention or alertness, and hallucinations (Harmon, 2020).
Once the presence of these symptoms has been established, doctors should perform additional examinations on the patient to test mental abilities and neurological functions. In addition, they should perform brain scans such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to rule out any other conditions that could be causing symptoms (Harmon, 2020). These scans are also helpful in diagnosing other forms of dementia such as vascular dementia. No cure exists for DLB. The disease can be managed through care and medication; however, the use of drugs will not stop or slow the progression of the disease. Medication may temporarily improve symptoms for an individual (Harmon, 2020).
Harmon, A. (2020). Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.
Iranzo, A. (2021). REM sleep behavior disorder predicts Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 46, 52–53. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2021.03.011
Wakabayashi, K., Tanji, K., Odagiri, S., Miki, Y., Mori, F., & Takahashi, H. (2013). The Lewy Body in Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders. MOLECULAR NEUROBIOLOGY, 47(2), 495–508. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1007/s12035-012-8280-y