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What is Lewy Body Dementia

Everyone has heard of dementia.  But, until the recent diagnosis of Robin Williams following his death, the term Lewy Body Dementia or Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) was not commonly known.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies is caused by abnormal microscopic deposits on the brain which cause damage over time.  The abnormal deposits, now known as Lewy Bodies, were discovered by Friederich H. Lewy, a neurologist working in the laboratory of Dr. Alois Alzheimer.  Not unlike other dementias, DLB is a progressive disease that leads to a “decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

As the second most common and progressive form of dementia, DLB affects approximately 1.4 million people in the United States.  DLB has similar traits and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and is commonly misdiagnosed.  Like other forms of dementia, there is not a single test to confirm the diagnosis of DLB.

DLB can initially present in three forms:  movement, cognitive/memory or hallucinations.  Over time, all three forms will be present in those with DLB.  Symptoms of DLB, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, include:

  • Changes in thinking and reasoning
  • Confusion and alertness that varies significantly from one time of day to another or from one day to the next
  • Parkinson’s symptoms, such as a hunched posture, balance problems and rigid muscles
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Trouble interpreting visual information
  • Acting out dreams, sometimes violently, a problem known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder
  • Malfunctions of the “automatic” (autonomic) nervous system
  • Memory loss that may be significant but less prominent than in Alzheimer’s

If you or someone you love exhibits any of the symptoms of dementia or DLB, please seek the help of a medical or behavioral health professional.

The Lewy Body Association website crashed the day of the announcement of Robin Williams’ diagnosis.  People are concerned.  Concerned about the unknown, diseases that may be unavoidable and, as proven by Williams, ones that can happen to anyone.






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