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Is It Parkinson’s or Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

caregiver assisting man with dementia
Specialty Care Services, providers of elder care in Silver Spring and nearby areas, discusses how to tell the difference between Parkinson?s and dementia with Lewy bodies.
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Each and every year, thousands of American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease, but they don’t. For a number of these people, the actual diagnosis is a very similar but not as well-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). So how do you determine if it’s Parkinson’s or dementia with Lewy bodies?

Dementia with Lewy bodies affects around 1.3 million Americans, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That approximation may very well be too low considering that some individuals who’ve been incorrectly identified as having Parkinson’s still have not received a correct diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms for the two diagnoses are often very similar, in particular as they progress, since they mirror similar root changes in the brain. But there are distinctions that will allow you to tell if what your loved one is experiencing is Parkinson’s or dementia with Lewy bodies.

Below are the symptoms you should be familiar with, as reported by the LBDA:

  • Worsening dementia: Growing confusion and minimized attention and executive function are common. Memory impairment might not be evident during the early stages.
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations: These are commonly complicated and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses: Touch or hearing are usually the most frequent.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder: This tends to show up decades prior to the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Recurring falls and fainting: Including undetermined loss in consciousness.
  •  Other psychiatric disturbances: These differ from patient to patient.

Is a correct diagnosis actually very important? 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 can not only result in severe adverse side effects, but could even aggravate symptoms and prevent appropriate symptom management.

Much of the confusion among doctors comes from the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB fall under the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

A significant distinction 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 movement symptoms start. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms developing first for at least a year.

Specialty Care Services offers high-quality Alzheimer’s care in Arlington and the surrounding communities. Contact us online or give us a call at 301-585-6300 to set up a free Alzheimer’s home care assessment or to discover more about the ways we can assist your loved one with dementia.

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