Parkinson’s or a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis?

It’s important to verify a Lewy body dementia diagnosis since Parkinson’s has many similar symptoms.
It’s important to verify a Lewy body dementia diagnosis since Parkinson’s has many similar symptoms.

Every year, many American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease, but they don’t. For a lot of these people, the actual diagnosis is a very similar but lesser-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

A Lewy body dementia diagnosis impacts around 1.3 million Americans, as reported by the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That approximation could be too low considering that a number of people who have been incorrectly diagnosed with Parkinson’s still haven’t received a correct diagnosis. Signs and symptoms for the two diagnoses can be quite similar, in particular as they progress, given that they reflect the same root changes in the brain.

Here are the symptoms you should become familiar with, according to the LBDA:

  • Intensifying dementia – Growing confusion and minimized attention and executive function are frequent. Memory impairment may not be evident during the early stages.
  • Frequent visual hallucinations – These are commonly complicated and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are probably the most frequent.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This tends to show up decades before the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Recurring falls and fainting – Includes unexplained loss in consciousness.
  • Other psychiatric disturbances – These differ from patient to patient.

Is the correct diagnosis really critical? Diagnosing DLB swiftly and accurately may possibly 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 will not only trigger severe adverse side effects, but can even aggravate symptoms and preclude effective symptom management.

Much of the confusion among health care professionals stems from the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB fall under the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

The key distinction is in the “one-year rule” associated with cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease usually do not present cognitive issues until at least a year after mobility symptoms start. DLB is typically the opposite, with cognitive symptoms developing first for at least one year.

Golden Harmony provides high-quality in-home care Raleigh and the surrounding areas. Contact us at 919-426-7522 to arrange a free in-home care assessment or to find out more about how our in-home care in Raleigh and nearby areas can help your senior loved one with dementia.