Every year, a great many American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease, even though they don’t. For many of these individuals, the actual diagnosis is a similar but not as well-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).
Dementia with Lewy bodies impacts as many as 1.3 million Americans, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate could possibly be too low considering that some people who have been incorrectly identified as having Parkinson’s still haven’t received an accurate diagnosis.
Signs and symptoms for Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s can be very similar, particularly when they progress, since they mirror the same underlying modifications in the brain.
Here are the signs and symptoms you should be aware of, according to the LBDA:
- Intensifying dementia – Growing confusion and reduced attention and executive function are frequent. Memory impairment might not be evident in the early stages.
- Reoccurring visual hallucinations – These are commonly complex and elaborate.
- Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are usually the most common.
- REM sleep behavior disorder – This might appear years prior to the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
- Frequent falls and fainting – Includes undetermined loss in consciousness.
- Other psychiatric disturbances – These vary from patient to patient.
Is the correct diagnosis actually very important? Diagnosing DLB promptly and properly may mean the difference between life and death, according to Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital and Elliott Professor of Neurology. Improperly treating DLB can not only cause serious negative effects, but could even worsen symptoms and preclude accurate symptom management.
Most of the confusion among physicians is due to the fact that both Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease fall under the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.
The most important distinction is in the “one-year rule” related to cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease by and large do not present cognitive issues until at least a year after mobility symptoms begin. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms developing first for at least a year.
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