National Health Association Helps Doctors Make Sense of “Dementia Divide”

A Critically Different Diagnosis: LBD, the Second Most Common Progressive Dementia after Alzheimer’s

Released: 10-Mar-2014 8:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Lewy Body Dementia Association
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Newswise — ATLANTA (March 10, 2014)—Today, in recognition of Brain Awareness Week, from March 10 through March 16, 2014, the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) calls attention to critical differences in dementia-causing disorders that may have potentially life-saving implications. Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the most misdiagnosed form of dementia and, following Alzheimer’s disease, is the second most common cause of progressive dementia. It is a brain disorder that affects 1.3 million Americans, impairs thinking, movement, sleep and behavior (causing people to hallucinate or act out dreams, sometimes violently). Also, it affects autonomic body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature regulation, and digestion.

“People with LBD usually start their quest for a diagnosis with their primary care physician. Unfortunately, primary care physicians may not recognize cognitive impairment in up to 76 percent of people with any form of dementia or probable dementia,” says Angela Taylor, director of programs, Lewy Body Dementia Association. “Sadly, most people remain misdiagnosed until they are at moderate to severe states. This is especially true in LBD and presents a substantial missed opportunity that can leave families unprepared for crisis situations and the future.”

A Different Diagnosis
Lewy body dementia, a complex, challenging, and surprisingly common brain disease, refers to two related diagnoses: Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Both PDD and DLB are considered Lewy body dementias. The difference is in the presentation of two specific symptoms (cognitive and movement) based on the “one-year rule.” With DLB, cognitive (thinking) symptoms that interfere with daily living appear before or within a year of movement problems resembling Parkinson’s disease. With PDD, disabling cognitive symptoms do not develop until more than a year after movement problems begin.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is characterized by an abnormal buildup of Lewy bodies (alpha-synuclein protein deposits) in the areas of the brain that regulate behavior, memory, movement and personality. The most prominent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease affect motor abilities. Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects areas of the brain involving learning and memory. What complicates diagnosis is that some people may have changes in the brain from more than one memory disorder. Most often a specialist like a neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist will distinguish LBD symptoms to achieve an accurate diagnosis, sometimes with the help of a neuropsychologist, who plays an important role in understanding cognitive problems. The greatest risk factor for LBD is age, most often affecting people over 50 years old.

Support for Physicians and Families

Education about LBD is urgently needed. The Lewy Body Dementia Association offers a range of information, resources and support, including a downloadable Diagnostic Checklist of LBD symptoms for individuals with LBD and caregivers to facilitate their discussions with their doctor. For hospital-based physicians, LBDA provides information and tools about emergency treatment of psychosis in LBD.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Lewy body dementias (LBD), supporting people with LBD, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. LBD, a complex disease that can present with a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms, is a “family disease.” It dramatically affects not only the person diagnosed but also the primary caregiver. Through outreach, education and research, LBDA supports all those affected by Lewy body dementias. To learn more about LBD and LBDA, please visit lbda.org.

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