Lewy body dementia isn’t a rare disease. Statistics have shown that over 1.4 million people are affected in the United States. However, it’s largely underdiagnosed, due to the similarities it shares with other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Lewy body dementia is a progressive brain disorder in which there is an accumulation of Lewy bodies in parts of the brain that controls behavior, cognition, and movement. This disease usually presents with signs and symptoms such as difficulty with thinking, sleeping, memory problems, cognitive problems and so on. The exact cause of Lewy body dementia isn’t known yet, however, some factors have been implicated to contribute to the development of this disease. Some of these factors include genetics, age and environmental. This disease has no treatment yet. Although, there are some medications that can be used to reduce the progression of the disease and signs and 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. Stem cells and exosomes are potential ways of treating this disease. Stem cells have the ability to repair and replace injured tissues.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia usually presents with a lot of symptoms. Below are some of the most common ones;
- Visual hallucinations: This is one of the initial symptoms of the disease. It presents in the early stage of the disease. However, they often recur. Patients might talk about seeing strange things, such as seeing animals, or people that are not there. In addition, they can also have sound, smell, and tactile hallucinations.
- 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.
- Movement disorders: This disease affects the motor function. In addition to this, the patient might display some parkinsonian symptoms. Examples of parkinsonian symptoms include muscle rigidity, tremor, and slowed movement.
- Problems with cognition: Patients also present with features that are similar to that of Alzheimer’s disease. They include confusion, lack of focus and attention, visual-spatial problems, and loss of memory.
- Sleep problems: Patients tend to have regular nightmares. Also, they also experience problems associated with random eye movement sleep behavior.
- Depression: Patients might present with depressive disorder in the course of the disease.
- Apathy: In addition to presenting with depression, they also display a lack of motivation.
What Are The Causes Of Lewy Body Dementia?
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 For Lewy Body Dementia?
There are some factors that are associated with the development of Lewy body dementia. Some of these factors are;
- Age: This is the most prevalent factor in the development of Lewy body dementia. This disease tends to occur in old adults, especially people above the age of 60 years.
- Gender: Also, Lewy body dementia tends to occur more in the male gender than in the female gender.
- Family history: People who have a relative, or a sibling that has been affected by the disease usually have higher risks of developing Lewy body dementia.
- 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?
Lewy body dementia is a disease that progresses over time. Below are some of the common complications of the disease;
- Dementia: Patients with Lewy body dementia tend to have severe dementia. However, this occurs more in the later stage of the disease.
- Depression: Patients affected by Lewy body dementia do present with depression. There has always been some connection between depression and Lewy body dementia.
- Parkinsonian symptoms: People affected by Lewy body dementia tend to present with symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. An example of this is a tremor.
- Balance problem: Patients also tend to fall more. This often leads to injury.
- Aggressive behavior: Patient also present with aggressive behavior. This also occurs in the later stage of the disease. The degree of the aggressiveness is directly connected with the severity of the disease.
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 have the ability to repair and replace injured tissues.
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Sugaya, K. (2008). S4-04-03: Stem cell therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 4(4), p.T182.Get More Stem Cell Information at iSTEMCELL