Lewy Body Disease – Have You Heard of It?
Despite the prevalence of the disease, affecting nearly 1.4 million individuals in the United States, few medical professionals are aware of Lewy Body Disease (LBD). Coming second to Alzheimer’s, LBD is an extremely common form of dementia in the elderly. It remains widely underdiagnosed however, as its symptoms strongly resemble the cognitive problems of Alzheimer’s disease and the motor problems of Parkinson’s disease.
Lewy Body Disease results from severe build-up of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, known as Lewy Bodies, which interfere with proper neural functioning. Lewy Bodies were first discovered in 1912 by scientist Frederick H. Lewy in deteriorating nerve cells of the brain stem of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. These proteins were later found in the cerebral cortex of individuals with dementia, coming to be known as diffuse Lewy Bodies. LBD results from Lewy Bodies both in the brainstem and in the cortex of the brain.
Misdiagnosis often occurs in individuals with LBD, as the disease remains widely unknown and presents many of the initial symptoms of other degenerative diseases. Cognitive symptoms include confusion, memory loss, sleep abnormalities, alteration in attention and alertness, and hallucinations, while motor symptoms include movement and posture deficits, as well as muscle stiffness. With such a wide-range of symptoms, LBD requires a comprehensive treatment approach. This approach utilizes physicians from a variety of fields to treat individual LBD symptoms without aggravating others. Although there is currently no cure for the disease, medical and non-medical treatment, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and support groups respectively, function to enhance and prolong life for those suffering from LBD.
Early diagnosis is a crucial factor in successful treatment procedures, however remains difficult as Lewy Body Disease is widely unknown. Individuals must be aware of the disease in order to take measures to prevent its development. Although age is considered a major risk factor, with LBD onset typically between ages 50 to 85, observational studies have revealed that a healthy lifestyle may delay its progression. In becoming more cognizant and aware of LBD, society as whole may reduce the prevalence of the disease, as well as the fear of age-associated cognitive decline.