If you are also thinking about the differences and how you could identify the two, then there is no need to think too much. We will be covering all the aspects of both of them in this article, so keep reading.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
Let’s first start with LBD. It is a disease where you can observe abnormal protein deposits in the brain. It is a special protein that is known as alpha-synuclein, and the deposits are called Lewy bodies. They affect the chemicals in the brain, which can further lead to issues with thinking, behavior, mood, and movement. LBD is a very common cause that leads to dementia.
Over a million individuals in the US are affected by LBD, usually found in older people. It is rare to see it in younger ones, but it doesn’t mean that it can not affect them. Having LBD also does not prevent other brain disorders from occurring.
This disease is progressive, which means that it starts slowly and gets worse as time progresses. Early symptoms are usually mild, and people can function in a normal way at this stage. Later stages can be more severe and can hinder the ability to think and move. With time, they have to rely on others for their care and assistance.
It is a brain disorder that can stop the proper functioning of one’s memory and thinking. Eventually, the patient won’t be able to carry out even basic chores or activities. It can usually occur at different stages of life. These are early onset and late onset symptoms. The disease is more common among older adults who are 60 years or above with late-onset type symptoms. Early onset is very rare and can occur in people between 30 and 60 years old.
The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. He was the first to notice the changes in brain tissue due to an unusual mental illness. She had the symptoms of memory loss, speaking problems, and behavior unpredictability. He checked her brain and saw that there were unusual clumps and tangled fiber bundles. These are some of the common features of Alzheimer’s, even now.
Is There Anything Common In Alzheimer’s And Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)?
Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer’s are both common types of dementia and can affect the cognitive abilities of anyone. However, there are slight differences in symptoms, their onset age, causes, etc.
Let’s understand the differences using the following features.
- Symptoms: LBD can change the way of thinking and reasoning of a person and can cause alternating confusion and alertness varying every day. The patient can also experience hallucinations and can become delusional. It can cause disturbance to your sleep as well.
On the other hand, Alzheimer’s can cause stronger memory loss than LBD, and the patients tend to repeat questions. There are also high chances of getting lost while the patient is wandering. It is easier to misplace items due to the loss of memory. You can also see changes in mood or personality. Anxiety, aggression, and difficulty in decision-making are also common symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
- Onset Age: The common onset age of LBD is around 50-85 years, whereas the onset of Alzheimer’s occurs at the age of 60-70 years. It can be earlier as well.
- Causes: As of now, there is no identified cause for LBD. Alzheimer’s can be caused by genetic, lifestyle, or environmental factors. Both of them are common in older people, but LBD can cause Parkinson’s and REM sleep disorders, whereas Alzheimer’s carries a risk of cardiovascular conditions, head injury, etc.
- Treatment: In the case of LBD, there is no treatment; however, changes in lifestyle, medication, and therapy can help in treating symptoms and can slow down the progression of the disease. This is the same with Alzheimer’s as well.
Diagnosis Of LBD And Alzheimer’s
In order to diagnose LBD and Alzheimer’s, doctors usually check for early signs and symptoms before the diagnosis. They would look for progressive decline in cognitive ability, changes in behavior, issues in performing daily chores, problems in spatial thinking and reasoning, etc.
After the identification of early symptoms and confirming the situation, they go for diagnosing the problem. There are ways to diagnose LBD and Alzheimer’s. Let’s have a look at them.
You should know that there is no single test that can diagnose the problem of Lewy Body Dementia. Generally, the signs and symptoms are taken as a basis for diagnosis. The doctor can also take note of some other medical conditions that can cause similar types of signs and symptoms. The following tests may be used for diagnosis:
Examination of Physical And Mental Functioning
The doctor can check for Parkinson’s disease, tumors, or any other medical condition that can affect the functions of the brain and the body. These tests look for changes in body strength, slowdown of reflexes, problems in walking straight or maintaining balance, etc., and then give results after proper examination.
These tests take about 10-15 minutes and do not require any specific place. In a mental assessment, doctors test the ability to think and reason. However, this test does not usually distinguish between LBD and Alzheimer’s as it only identifies the impairment in cognitive abilities. For identifying LBD, longer tests can be helpful.
The doctor can recommend an MRI or CT scan which can help in identifying a stroke or rule out the possibility of a tumor. Even though doctors use medical history and physical checkups to diagnose dementia, there are certain imaging studies that can suggest the type of dementia. It can be Alzheimer’s or LBD.
In case the diagnosis is not clear, the doctor can also recommend additional imaging tests, which can help in identifying Lewy body dementia. Those additional tests can be Fluorodeoxyglucose PET brain scan or Single-photon emission computerized tomography.
In order to check for REM sleep disorder, the doctor can suggest a sleep evaluation. Polysomnogram is the name of the test.
There are many ways of diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Often, a doctor’s examination can help in identification. The doctor can also ask family members or friends for behavioral changes to understand the condition better. Then they go forward with the diagnosis using the following tests:
Testing Mental Status
Doctors can diagnose the condition using a mental health check. They conduct tests that can evaluate your cognitive skills and memory. The scores of these tests are then used to rate brain functioning.
These tests are conducted to test the mental health and condition of the brain. They contain extensive tests and test cognitive skills and memory, but on a much deeper basis. The doctors can determine whether your brain can function properly and provide information on the activities that the patients can still perform.
In these tests, Depression can also come out as a reason for causing the symptoms.
There are many lab tests that can help in ruling out symptoms of other disorders that are similar to Alzheimer’s, such as deficiency of vitamin B-12 or thyroid disorders. The doctor can also recommend cerebrospinal fluid tests to help with the diagnosis. It measures amyloid and tau proteins present in the cerebrospinal fluid. The ratio of these proteins can help in diagnosing Alzheimer’s.
The cerebrospinal fluid test may not be necessary in most cases of Alzheimer’s, but it can help in cases that progress rapidly.
Brain Imaging Tests
The deterioration of brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s can be detected in various brain scans. However, brain scans alone may not be enough to diagnose the disease. It is because the information from the scans may overlap with what the doctors consider a normal age-related change.
This is where brain imaging can help by ruling out similar causes and distinguishing between various types of brain diseases. Some of the available technologies for brain imaging are:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computerized Tomography (CT)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
How Long Can Someone Live With Alzheimer’s And Lewy Body Dementia?
In the case of patients with Alzheimer’s, the duration of survival is in the range of 4-10 years after diagnosis. The number can vary depending on the age of the diagnosed patient. This disease is also ranked high among the list of “causes of death” in the United States.
On the other hand, a person with LBD can live for an average of 3-7 years after diagnosis. Also, it is difficult to estimate the exact numbers as they can vary depending on the individual.
Ways To Prevent Or Slow Down The Effects Of LBD And Alzheimer’s
There is no certain way or technique that can prevent the onset. However, there are activities that can help reduce the risk of getting the disease. For LBD, these are:
- Light exercise regularly
- Mental Stimulation
- Getting a diet filled with nutrition
You can do this for Alzheimer’s as well, but you also need some extra caution as it is more severe than LBD. Do the following to reduce Alzheimer’s risk.
- Wear a helmet wherever it is necessary to avoid head injuries.
- You can also avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s are more common than they appear and are often confusing. It is normal to feel nervous when seeing a health care expert as it is a sensitive topic for anyone. We understand that it is difficult to deal with Alzheimer’s and LBD. With the absence of a complete cure, they are even more worrisome.
There is no cure, but you can ease the symptoms with medication and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Life can also be prolonged by seeking early diagnosis and treatment that can relieve some of the symptoms and slow the progression of these diseases. If you have someone who is suffering from these types of dementia, then make sure that you tend to their needs and provide them care.