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What you need to know about Lewy body dementia (LBD)


Everything you need to know about Lewy body dementia to provide care.

Practical tools to help you learn about this little-known disease, address some of its day-to-day challenges and find support and resources.


What do I need to know about Lewy body dementia?

Lewy body dementia is the second most common neurodegenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. The disease usually appears after the age of 60 and progresses rapidly.

It is characterized by the formation of deposits and abnormal residues inside the brain cells. Abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein causes the disease.

Diagnosis, treatment and progression

Symptoms may be similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease:

  • Progressive loss of memory, language, reasoning and other executive functions;
  • Difficulty finding the right word or being able to follow a sequence of ideas;
  • Depression, anxiety, marked fluctuations in mental alertness;
  • Sleepiness during the day, and difficulty sleeping at night;
  • Apathy;
  • Perceptual errors, e.g., distinguishing a face in a carpet pattern;
  • Stiffness of muscles, tremors, slouching posture, slow and shuffling movements.

Visual hallucinations are specific to Lewy body dementia. They may worsen during periods of confusion and become more specific and detailed over time.

Currently, there is no cure for LBD. The medications that are prescribed to people with Lewy body dementia treat the symptoms caused by brain cell loss.

Questions and possible solutions

The doctor mentions “cognitive problems,” what exactly is this?

Lewy body disease is one of approximately 250 cognitive disorders. Amnesia, dementia, delirium, cerebrovascular disease, mixed cognitive disorders and frontotemporal degeneration also fall into this category. “Cognitive impairment” is a generic term that encompasses a variety of symptoms: issues with memory and perception, difficulty thinking, problem solving, and significant changes in mood and behaviour.

We have heard about senile dementia of Lewy body type. Is this the same illness as Lewy body dementia?

Yes, depending on the source, the term “cortical Lewy body disease” or “variant Lewy body disease” may be used. The Alzheimer Society refers to “Lewy body disease,” while Parkinson Canada refers to “diffuse Lewy body disease.” So many names for the same difficult reality, for both you and the person you are caring for.

There are parallels with Alzheimer’s disease. Can we follow the same practical advice for people with Lewy body disease?

Some symptoms are similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. The challenges and needs of the caregiver are similar: communication, interactions, activities, sexuality, safety in the home, ambiguous loss and grief.

However, the symptoms of visual hallucinations are specific. This requires support and resources adapted to the person with the disorder as well as to the caregiver, even if the disorder is still little known. Caregivers have no choice but to turn to available telephone helplines, resources and referrals.

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