Lewy body dementia is a condition that is accompanied by conditions such as changes in behavior, movement, cognition and memory loss. The disease tends to worsen over time. An important feature of the disease is random eye movement sleep behavior disorder. This is a condition in which affected individual lose normal muscle paralysis, and act out their dreams. Usually, this may occur years before other signs and symptoms manifest. Other common signs and symptoms of the disease include visual hallucinations, alterations in alertness and attention. Others include difficulty in walking, rigidity, slowness of movement; the autonomic nervous system might also be affected. This disease might eventually lead to psychological problems such as depression, apathy, and even cause changes in the blood pressure, cardiovascular and digestive system. The exact cause of this disease isn’t known yet. However, there are some factors that can lead to the development of the disease. Genetics and environmental factors have been implicated to be some of these factors. Lewy body dementia can be diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms presented by the patients. Other tests such as blood tests, medical imaging, neuropsychological tests can also be performed. There are some diseases that share similar signs and symptoms with Lewy body dementia. Examples of these diseases include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, delirium, and psychosis. There is no cure for this disease. However, supportive treatments are given, to improve the patient’s symptoms, such as the motor and psychological symptoms. Medications that might be given include acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, antipsychotics, and so on. Patients might have to rely on the care of friends, family or caregivers, especially in the later part of the disease. Scientists are working on neural stem cells that can be implanted in the brain to treat this disease.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lewy Body Dementia?
- The difficulty with movement: Patient might present with parkinsonian symptoms. These include rigidity of the muscles, tremor and shuffling when walking, slowed movement and so on.
- Cognitive problems: Individuals affected with Lewy body dementia may present with cognitive symptoms similar to patients who have Alzheimer. Example of this includes confusion, attention deficit, memory loss, and visual-spatial problems.
- Visual hallucinations: This is one of the initial symptoms presented by patients. Patients might have hallucinations of seeing different shapes, animals, and people that are not there, although it’d seem so real to the patient. Some patients might also experience auditory, olfactory and tactile hallucinations.
- Sleep problems: Patients might also have sleep disorders. For example, patients might have a rapid eye movement disorder, which might make them act out their dreams, even when they are asleep.
- Depression: Patients affected with this disease may fall into depression, during the disease.
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction: Some major autonomic functions are affected by the Lewy body dementia. Some of the functions affected by this disease include blood pressure, sweating and the digestive process. This eventually results in loss of balance, dizziness, and digestive problems such as constipation.
- Patients might also develop a loss of interest in what used to interest them.
What Are The Causes Of Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia is characterized by the abnormal development and accumulation of proteins into deposits. These materials are known as Lewy bodies. This type of protein has also been implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease. The exact cause of Lewy body dementia isn’t known yet. However, the disease has been linked with a gene PARK 11. Lewy body dementia often appears intermittently and doesn’t seem to have a strong hereditary link. The loss of cholinergic neurons has been said to be responsible for the neurodegeneration of cognition in patients.
On the other hand, the dopaminergic neurons have been implicated in the degeneration of motor control, which is responsible for its Parkinson’s symptoms. Also, the deposition of abnormal proteins in some parts of the brain have also been noticed. These protein substances are known as Lewy bodies. Individuals with Lewy bodies in their brain also tend to have plaques and tangles, similar to what is obtained in Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Lewy Body Dementia?
These are factors increases the risk of developing the disease. Below are some of the factors;
- Age: It has been observed that Lewy body dementia predominantly occurs in people above the age of 60.
- Gender: Lewy body dementia tends to occur more in males.
- Family history: People that have a family member or relative that has suffered from the disease have a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Depression: Recent studies have shown that there is a connection between Lewy body dementia and depression. Most patients affected by the disease usually have a history of depression. So there is a chance that people affected by depression have a higher chance of having the Lewy body dementia.
What Are The Complications Of Lewy Body Dementia?
Some of the complications of Lewy body dementia include the following;
- Severe dementia
- Trauma due to incessant falling.
How Is Lewy Body Dementia Currently Treated?
There is no cure for Lewy body dementia yet. However supportive treatment is usually given to improve the symptoms of the patient. Medications and care must be given to the patient
- Medications: The focus of the treatment is usually on the motor, emotive and cognitive symptoms. The symptoms of Lewy body dementia generally do respond to medications of Parkinson’s disease. Levodopa is a typical example of a drug that works well. On the other hand, cognitive functions can be improved by using a drug such as donezipil
- Care and support: Patients usually require support and care especially at the later stage of the disease, when they can’t take proper care of themselves.
Stem Cell Therapy and Lewy Body Dementia
Scientists are presently working on ways to develop neural stem cells that can be implanted in the brain, to repair and replace the damaged tissues. Stem cells can repair and replace injured tissues.
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