Lewy Body Dementia, also called Dementia with Lewy Bodies, is a form of dementia. The progressive condition is less common than Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. However, it is still the most common form of dementia behind those two. Many people have not heard of the disease, despite it affecting a lot of people. Others will have heard of it for the first time when Robin Williams was diagnosed post-mortem in 2015. The symptoms of LBD are close to those from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They can include confusion, delusions, and changes in thinking. The progression of LBD is regarded to have seven stages. However, these stages are difficult to define.
It can be difficult to diagnose someone with LBD in the initial stages of the disease. Patients can show few symptoms. The symptoms they do show are often signs of other conditions too, so it is hard to pinpoint it as LBD. One of the indications of LBD that can arise earlier is disordered sleep. REM sleep behavior can become disrupted, which can be a risk factor for LBD diagnosis later in life. This sleep disorder can occur more than a decade before other signs of LBD occur. In fact, it is about an average of 11 years before other symptoms begin to show.
As LBD begins to progress, the person’s cognitive functions can be impaired. They might find it difficult to remain alert or might be easily distracted. It can become difficult for them to engage in complex thinking. Tasks such as making plans or even everyday activities can be harder. As with other forms of dementia, the memory can be affected too. However, this symptom isn’t usually as bad as with other dementias.
Physical symptoms can occur when the disease progresses further. This is one of the reasons LBD is sometimes confused with Parkinson’s. People suffering from Lewy Body Dementia might have difficulty moving. They can walk stiffly or shuffle when they move. The disease can also affect facial movements and speech. The person could be less expressive, and their voice might change in volume or tone.
Hallucinations are a common symptom for those suffering from Lewy Body Dementia. This symptom is often used to help separate the disease from others, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. They can be an upsetting experience for the person’s loved ones. However, the person with LBD is unlikely to find them scary or upsetting. They might even understand that what they are seeing are hallucinations.
Worsening symptoms indicate that the disease is progressing into the final stages. At this point, LBD can look much like late-stage Alzheimer’s. The patient might be confused and disorientated, and even angry and aggressive. LBD is different, however, in that it may also include lucid moments. Lewy Body Dementia patients can also have more serious delusions.
Lewy Body Dementia is a progressive disease, which can be difficult to diagnose. It is often not diagnosed until it has progressed to later stages. Understanding the symptoms can help people prepare for the condition’s progression.