Signs & Symptoms of Lewy Body Disease

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Human Brain
Human Brain (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jon Olav Eikenes)

Lewy body disease, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, is a progressive form of dementia usually found in the elderly. It is the second leading cause of dementia in the elderly. Dementia describes a group of symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and are caused by different physical or mental conditions.

History

in 1912, Frederick Lewy found abnormal protein deposits while he was examining the brains of people with Parkinson's disease. Lewy bodies are a main feature of Parkinson's disease. Researchers later found Lewy bodies in the outer layer of the brains of some people who had dementia.

Cause

Dementia of Lewy bodies is caused by the buildup of Lewy bodies, bits of protein, inside the center of nerve cells in the motor and memory areas of the brain. Some people with Lewy body dementia also have protein tangles characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

Risk Factors

Risk factors of Lewy body dementia include being of male gender, age 53 to 93, and a family history of dementia.

Features

Lewy body dementia is diagnosed when at least two brain dysfunctions are present. Signs and symptoms include communication, organizational, reasoning, coordination and movement difficulties; memory loss; personality changes; inappropriate behaviors; paranoia; agitation; and hallucinations. People with Lewy body disease often have REM sleep (deep sleep) disturbance and act out dreams, which can happen in its very early stages.

Identification

Lewy body dementia is similar to Alzheimer's disease, but it features fluctuations in confusion and clear thinking, visual hallucinations and Parkinson's tremors.

Diagnosis

The doctor will do a physical exam that includes gathering information about symptoms and medical history. The doctor can do other tests including cognitive (thought process) testing, neurological (nervous system) testing, a CT scan (a computer takes pictures of the inside of the body), MRI scan (magnetic waves are used to take detailed pictures of specific body structures), and blood tests.

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