October is Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month

To be honest, I didn’t really learn about Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) until I read a press clipping from New York University Langone Medical Center. I typically associate October with falling leaves, the sudden appearance of pumpkins everywhere, and my birthday, so I was surprised to learn that this month is also dedicated to raising awareness for a disease that affects about 1.3 million people in America.

Despite its prevalence, LBD is under-treated and under-recognized. It’s often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Parkinson’s disease, despite being the second most-common form of dementia (surpassed only by AD). People with LBD typically experience a more rapid functional decline than those with Alzheimer’s, and there is a shorter interval between placement in a nursing home and death.

Lewy Body Dementia is aptly named for its etiology—abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies build up in the brain cells that control various aspects of memory and motor control; the interruptions of these systems is why LBD is widely misdiagnosed. Fortunately, patients with LBD usually respond more robustly than Alzheimer’s patients to medications used for AD, such as donepezil and rivastigmine, although these may worsen motor symptoms. They also respond well to levodopa, which is often prescribed for Parkinson’s.

Raising awareness is important because it leads to proper diagnoses, more research, and better treatments. My grandfather passed away several years ago from complications caused by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a rare brain disorder that is sometimes misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, patients with PSP do not respond well to medications used to treat Parkinson’s. Lewy Body Dementia affects about twice as many people as Parkinson’s and 65 times more than PSP, which means a lot of misdiagnoses. Read more about the symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia and the available treatments on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke resource page here.

–Caitlin Schneider

Source: NYU Langone Medical Center fact sheet and definition page

One response

  1. My father recentely passed away after being dignosed with Lewy Body Dementia 3 and a half years ago.This was something I had never heard of and was unaware of the effects it had on a person body,I have learned so much through this process.I have did things I never thought I would be able to do.When My father passed he didn’t have a active insurance policy,but I was unaware until he passed.So I am now trying to find resources to get help to get my father buried.He was a great man very indepedent,someone that went from going to bathroom alone,cooking for himself,bathing hisself to being complety dependent on others.He was 72 when he passed away.

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