Lewy Body Dementia: What You Need to Know

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By Dr. Barry Gordon

When former Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner passed away recently, his family shared that the near-Hall of Fame player famous for a World Series error had been battling Lewy body dementia.

Many people are familiar with the dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but fewer are aware of the signs and symptoms associated with Lewy body dementia.

Also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, the condition is a neurodegenerative brain disease that causes progressive memory loss and also affects a person’s thought process and physical movement. Protein deposits called Lewy bodies develop in the nerve cells within the brain that control thinking, memory, and motor control. It is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in that it often affects memory.

People with Lewy body dementia may exhibit a number of symptoms that progress over time. Some of the primary symptoms are:

  • Fluctuations in attention and alertness: At one moment the person may be alert and then suddenly be confused and disoriented. They may appear drowsy or take frequent naps during the day.
  • Vivid hallucinations: The person may see, hear or smell things that aren’t there. These hallucinations can be very detailed and are one of the first signs of Lewy body dementia.
  • Repeated falls: As with Parkinson’s and other diseases of the brain, patients with Lewy body dementia are prone to shuffling while walking, rigid muscles and slow movement.
  • Personality change: Patients often become paranoid to the point of accusing family members of disloyalty. They may call the police to report a theft, when, in fact, they have lost or misplaced the objects themselves. They may become suspicious of medications administered by caregivers.

Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center offers evaluation for patients suspected of having Lewy body dementia and other brain diseases. Our team of neurology specialists can work with the primary care provider and the rest of the healthcare team to provide exceptional care to patients.

As with any form of dementia, Lewy body dementia can be very difficult for family and loved ones. While there is no cure for Lewy body dementia, treatment is available to reduce symptoms of the disease.

Dr. Barry Gordon is the Medical Director of Ambulatory Neurology at the Ayer Neuroscience Institute at MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut.

 

 


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