It is essential to know the most common and not so common Lewy body dementia symptoms as it can help with treating a person early.
You also need to understand that this type of dementia is, according to statistics, the third most common one. Alzheimer’s disease/dementia and vascular dementia are the only two more frequent.
Fun fact: Robin Williams (August 2014) had Lewy body dementia (LBD), and it is one of the main reasons for suicide.
Someone who is affected by LBD develops problems with thinking, movement, mood, alertness and starts showing signs of depression.
Of course, diagnosing LBD is not as easy as it sounds. There are other brain diseases that also have similar symptoms and are often confused.
What is Lewy body dementia?
Lewy bodies are another name for the significant increase in the creation of proteins that occupy the brain. This same protein is also linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Similarly, those with Lewy body dementia have alike symptoms compared to Alzheimer’s disease.
Moreover, predominantly, more men than women are affected by LBD in their sixties and above. Also, if a family member has Lewy body dementia or Parkinson’s disease, relatives are at higher risk.
Common Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms
1. Changes In Reasoning
Lewy body dementia (LBD) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) presents itself as progressive dementia that affects thinking, independent function, and reasoning.
Abnormal protein deposits that accumulate in certain areas of the brain over time damage its cells over resulting in the condition.
Depending on different circumstances, everyone affected by the condition will display differing symptoms from the onset. A few people experience changes in reasoning seeing them struggle to process information and plan.
Their flow of ideas may become unclear, disorganizer or seem illogical. Changes in behavior are also common when someone with the condition rationalizes things differently.
The person may gravitate towards risky behavior that is out of the norm because of their impaired judgment.
2. Visual Hallucinations
Hallucinations are amongst the most commonly experienced Lewy body dementia symptoms. In fact, about 80% of people with LBD experience hallucinations marked by seeing things that in real sense aren’t present.
In the beginning, someone with the condition will often see animals or children who aren’t present.
Rarely, a few people may also experience nonvisual hallucinations meaning that they respond to smells or hear things that don’t exist.
Often, if the hallucinations aren’t disruptive in nature then there isn’t a cause for concern or treatment isn’t required.
However, if the person begins to respond in harmful or dangerous ways concerning their hallucinations, it’s crucial to seek prescribed medication.
3. Movement Difficulties (Parkinsonism)
Some people suffering from DLB might never experience movement problems or it could take several years for them to start having this challenge.
It projects itself initially as things like handwriting changes in mild forms that it may easily be overlooked.
Often referred to as Parkinsonism, it describes the set of symptoms experienced during the offset of Parkinson’s disease dementia.
A person can experience the same symptoms with LBD in the later stages.
Some of the other signs that accompany it include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Loss of coordination
- Slow movement when walking
- Stooped posture
- Shaking during rest
- Balancing problems
- Reduced facial expressions
- A weakened voice when speaking
- Difficulties swallowing
4. Changes In Body Function Regulation
People with LBD suffer from significant changes affecting the part of their nervous system that is responsible for automatic functions.
It includes functions related to the heart, muscles, and glands.
The Lewy body dementia symptoms that point out to a shift in body function regulation include:
- Experiencing sudden body temperature changes
- Heightened sensitivity to cold and heat
- Frequent falls
- Blood pressure issues
- Urinary incontinence
- A diminished sense of smell
Some people with LBD will start suffering from restless leg syndrome which is a condition that compels them to move their legs while resting.
It may even happen while sleeping and the only way to stop the unpleasant sensation is by moving to relieve the discomfort.
5. Problems With Cognition
A person with LBD will often stare into space for prolonged periods of time and they also usually appear drowsy and lethargic. Problems with cognition is some of the common Lewy body dementia symptoms a majority of people experience.
It’s also identifiable from unpredictable changes in concentration, wakefulness, attention, and alertness throughout the day as well as from day to day.
The person will seem better one day only for them to re-occur the next day or worsen as the days progress. Typically, cognitive fluctuations are some of the symptoms that help physicians distinguish the condition from Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Sleep Problems
Sleep disorders can arise as one of the Lewy body dementia symptoms, but they often go undiagnosed. Visiting a sleep specialist can help with treating sleep problems as well as possibly diagnose the root cause.
Most people with DLB experience insomnia which is attributed to difficulties falling or staying asleep. People with LBD also experience excessive sleeping during the day where the person sleeps for two or more hours.
A few people also exhibit REM disorder which is a condition where someone seems to act out their dreams. In the case of REM, the person might talk while sleeping, display violent movements, and may even fall out of bed.
7. Memory Loss & Dementia
Degenerative thinking abilities or severe memory loss marked eventually set in and affect a person’s ability to perform their normal daily activities.
Memory loss is a primary Lewy body dementia symptom and it’s marked by forgetfulness, misidentifying objects, challenges multitasking, reasoning and problem-solving.
Confusion is yet another symptom that accompanies dementia and the person may suddenly have difficulties making sense of time and place.
However, unlike with Alzheimer’s dementia, the memory problems do not manifest at first but they start becoming apparent as LBD progresses.
Dementia can also alter mood and behavior leading the person to start displaying loss of initiative or poor judgment.
8. Inattentiveness and Confusion
Related to memory loss, a person with LBD may become more inattentive than usual combined with sudden confusion.
It’s best described as spacing out where someone in a situation that requires their undivided attention wanders off in their thoughts.
Several other symptoms collectively contribute to inattentiveness including difficulties with sleep. Once again it is something that will affect someone’s ability to perform daily tasks and it’s more pronounced for people who are employed.
They often find it difficult to get work done and grasp new information which leads to frustration for the individual and those around them.
As the condition progresses, it also affects both written and spoken speech.
9. Trouble Interpreting Visual Information
People with LBD have difficulties processing visual information with regard to object size, perceiving objects as overlapping, and they also display difficulties with counting tasks.
For instance, they may have problems drawing common objects like a clock and the symptom is worse in people who also experience visual hallucinations.
They also have trouble perceiving spatial information leading them to misjudge the distance between objects.
Often, a few of these visual issues can be handled either by prescribing antipsychotic medications or with the help of an eye-care practitioner.
Oftentimes, the diagnosis of visual problems can help in making the correlation to DLB as opposed to other neurodegenerative conditions.
People with LBD have a sense of understanding about the changes that they are experiencing. Before they receive a diagnosis, it can be frustrating trying to understand the root cause of the problems they are experiencing.
Often, they cannot control most of the symptoms on their own and they may feel like a burden to family or friends trying to help them through the challenging time.
It leads them to develop a feeling of sadness and they also start feeling worthless because of their inability to get tasks started or complete them.
Problems with sleep as well as eating only aggravates the situation, and soon people with LBD go into depression.
Along with depression comes the disinterest in enjoying fun activities or even normal tasks. Apathy as one of the Lewy body dementia symptoms leads someone to withdraw from social interactions. Someone with LBD becomes upset easily, and they often resort to pacing around or wringing their hands because of their inability to feel settled.
They also repeat words or phrases severally which impedes their ability to hold a decent conversation. They can recognize their shortcomings in social settings which makes them rationalize that withdrawing from such situations is the solution.
It becomes more pronounced when the person becomes bedridden perhaps owing to the progression of one of the other symptoms.
12. Unpredictability Of Symptoms
One of the striking signs of DLB is the fact that the severity of symptoms changes from time to time. The shifts are often dramatic and someone can never tell when they are going to strike and in what form.
Often, it can give a false sense of hope that someone with the condition is cured only for the symptoms to come back in more severe forms. The shifts in “good days and bad days” makes it somehow easy to recognize that there is an existing health problem.
Subsequently, early diagnosis can come about from catching on to these unusual changes at the very start.
13. The One-Year Rule
Doctors typically use the one-year rule to make a diagnosis distinction between Lewy bodies dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The rule of thumb is that cognitive difficulties precede movement issues by more than a year when someone has Parkinson’s diseaseis suffering from Parkinson’s disease dementia.
However, in the case of LBD, the cognitive problems may start concurrently with movement problems or within a year of developing issues with cognition.
The symptoms of Lewy bodies dementia are treatable on their own and complete recovery is based on their severity. However, much like all other forms of dementia, there is still no cure for this type of dementia.
14. Staring Into Space/Zoning Out
If a person is staring into space, it does not necessarily mean he or she has Lewy body dementia. However, once they keep doing it over and over again, over a longer period of time, you need to start taking things into consideration.
Indeed, staring into space or zoning out is one of Lewy body dementia symptoms, you should be aware of. For your information, they can stare into objects far away or items nearby.
One of the reasons they might begin to stare or completely lose track of what is happening around them is due to hallucinations. We already mentioned the latter above, so please re-read it if necessary.
15. Imperfect Digestive Process
Since Lewy body dementia affects all sorts of different parts of the body, one of the symptoms is an imperfect digestive process. A patient can experience all kinds of inconveniences, like dizziness, constipation and bowel issues.
If the body does not get enough nutrients through quality food, an array of other conditions can occur that can worsen dementia. Not just that, but rapidly speed up the progress.
As a caregiver, it is crucial to understand the ill person’s eating habits even from before the symptoms and the possibility of dementia become a thing.
You should act immediately and take the person to the doctor as soon as possible.