The Differences Between Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies

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Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies present with similar symptoms.

Each year, a great many American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease when in actuality, they do not. For a number of these individuals, the correct diagnosis is a very similar, but not as well-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

Dementia with Lewy bodies impacts as many as 1.4 million Americans, as reported by the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate could very well be too low considering that some people who’ve been inaccurately identified as having Parkinson’s still haven’t received the correct diagnosis.

Both dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) are considered Lewy body dementias, but there are important distinctions. The most crucial difference is in the “one-year rule” related to cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease normally do not present cognitive issues until at least a year after mobility symptoms begin. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms appearing around a year prior to movement issues.

Below are the DLB symptoms you should be familiar with, according to the LBDA:

  • Worsening dementia – Increasing confusion and decreasing attention and executive function are typical. Memory impairment may not be obvious during the early stages.
  • Frequent visual hallucinations – These are usually intricate and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are probably the most frequent.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This may show up years prior to the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Recurring falls and fainting – Including undetermined loss of consciousness.
  • Other psychiatric disruptions – Most of these vary from patient to patient.

Is a correct diagnosis actually essential? Diagnosing DLB swiftly and properly could 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. Incorrectly treating DLB with medications used for Parkinson’s disease may cause serious negative effects, and can even exacerbate symptoms and prevent effective symptom management.

Discover more about the differences between Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies from ScienceDaily. 

Live Well at Home delivers high-quality dementia care in Burlingame and the surrounding areas. Contact us online or at 916-459-3220 or 209-883-6064 to arrange a free Alzheimer’s home care assessment or to find out more about the ways our experts in elderly home care in Sacramento and surrounding areas can help your senior loved one with dementia.

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