Lewy Body Dementia goes by many names. It is also called Lewy Body Disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), and diffuse Lewy Body Disease. It has some similarities to Alzheimer's as well as Parkinson's.
Motor abnormalities and dementia are hallmarks of Lewy Body Dementia. Mental function becomes impaired due to Lewy bodies (LBs) in nerve cells (neurons). These are abnormal protein deposits in the mid-brain, and in the outer layer of the brain (cortex).
Lewy bodies cause deterioration in the brain's ability to function and eventually kill nerve cells. Plaque often appears in the brain as well. Lewy Body Dementia usually appears after age 60.
Muscles become stiff, and movement is slow and difficult. The individual's walk becomes a shuffle as their balance becomes precarious and they are prone to falling. Their posture is stooped.
Approximately a year after motor problems arise, the individual begins to have cognitive problems.
Dramatic changes in mental alertness appear. The individual will at times be quite coherent and tuned in, and then other times, they are unable to focus and have trouble speaking. They may stare unseeing into space for long stretches.
If they used to be able to draw, they will have difficulties doing so now, and this difficulty will only increase. They may experience delusions, often frightening ones, and may begin to experience hallucinations.
Not surprisingly, the individual may in turn become fearful, depressed and paranoid. Antipsychotic drugs only make this worse and should be avoided.
Sleep becomes difficult. The individual may suffer from insomnia, or they may act out their dreams. This can be quite dangerous to the individual and to anyone who sleeps with them.
Blood pressure and body temperature may become erratic as the result of autonomic nervous system dysfunction. The individual may be too hot or too cold, they may have problems with bladder or bowels.
Because of the overlap in symptoms between DLB and Alzheimer's, it is difficult to know which condition is being dealt with. Though brain scans gather some information, the Lewy bodies themselves cannot be detected.