Memory impairment is a serious condition that can severely impact the lives of you and your loved ones. But there’s a lot of confusion about the different types of memory impairment and how they affect a person differently. One of the more common forms of this condition is Lewy body dementia, but what exactly is this?
Lewy body dementia, also referred to as LBD is an umbrella term for two common forms of memory impairment: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. These are progressive brain disorders that lead to a decline in cognitive function.
What Causes Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia is the second-most common form of dementia in the United States, right behind Alzheimer’s disease. This condition affects over 1 million people and directly affects the chemicals in your brain, causing problems with thinking, movement, and memory. This is caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins called alpha-synucleins that clump to form a deposit in your brain.
This clump or body of protein is called a Lewy body, named after the neurologist Fritz Jacob Heinrich Lewy discovered them. These bodies build up inside neurons, or nerve cells, and affect the nerves that help different parts of your brain communicate. This leads to the brain developing problems with thinking, memory, motor control, and movement.
As this condition progresses, a person may develop these problems to a point where they can no longer perform their everyday activities, leading to a need for specialized memory care.
While scientists are still unsure as to the exact causes of the buildup of alpha-synuclein, it’s suspected that the following factors can contribute to this:
- Sleep disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
While it isn’t proven that this disease is genetic (can be passed down through generations), it’s believed that having a family member with this disease can increase the risk of developing it yourself.
What are the Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia, like most forms of memory impairment, leads to a decline in cognitive function. As this condition, it can also lead to:
- Forgetting important names, faces, and events
- Difficulty paying attention
- Confusion or disorientation
- Visual problems with depth perception
- Hallucinations or paranoia
- Sleep problems or vivid dreams causing a movement while asleep
While these are some of the more common symptoms, they aren’t the only potential signs that a person is dealing with Lewy body dementia. A person suffering from this condition could also develop problems with motor control or start noticing stiffer movements and balance problems.
Some symptoms may be more prominent than others, and not every person with this condition will experience all of these symptoms. The symptoms can also overlap with other forms of memory impairment, making it extremely important to visit your healthcare provider if you’re worried you or a loved one may be developing Lewy body dementia. Early diagnosis can help you slow the progression of this condition.
Is Lewy Body Dementia the Same as Parkinson’s Disease?
Lewy body dementia is an umbrella term for two primary forms of dementia: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. Both of these conditions are caused by the buildup of alpha-synuclein in the brain, the Lewy bodies, which can sometimes make it difficult to determine which condition a person is experiencing. In each condition, the buildup of Lewy bodies affects a different part of the brain.
Typically, Parkinson’s disease primarily affects movement and motor function but doesn’t lead to serious cognitive decline. This can lead to:
- Stiff movements
- Loss of motor function
As this condition progresses, these symptoms can get worse. If left untreated, Parkinson’s disease can lead to cognitive problems later in life.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies, also called DLB, is a form of dementia that can cause a wide range of cognitive and physical problems. The cognitive symptoms of DLB include:
- Personality or behavioral changes
- Lack of spatial awareness
The buildup of Lewy bodies affects the way nerve cells communicate in your brain and can change the way your brain processes and uses certain chemicals. This can also lead to physical problems similar to those that occur in Parkinson’s disease. However, in DLB, these physical problems tend to be significantly less prominent.
Where to Get Help for Lewy Body Dementia
When it comes to memory impairment, it can be challenging to manage alone. If you’re caring for a loved one suffering from memory impairment, it’s important that you do what you can to avoid caregiver burnout. Supporting a loved one with memory impairment can be emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, and asking for help is completely okay.
That’s where memory care communities, like ours here at Fox Trail Memory Care in Park Ridge, come into play. Our communities are specially set up to help residents suffering from all forms of memory impairment—including Lewy body dementia—and our teams on-site are trained to assist with all the complications caused by these conditions.
Schedule a tour today to see for yourself the high quality of care we provide every one of our residents and get the care your loved one deserves.