'New' Dementia Affects 1.3 Million But Is Often Unknown to Doctors

Quick, what is the the second-most common type of progressive dementia in the elderly? Lewy body dementia (LBD) affects an estimated 1.3 million individuals and their families in the United States, but because LBD symptoms can closely resemble other more commonly known diseases like Alzheimer’s (the most common type of progressive dementia) and Parkinson’s, it is currently widely underdiagnosed and there is a good chance your primary care physician is not familiar with it.

Despite the disease’s prevalence, people with LBD have to see an average of three doctors before the LBD diagnosis is made. In order to raise awareness about LBD in the general public and in the medical profession, The Lewy Body Dementia Association is leading the first national LBD awareness campaign, A Week To Remember, from October 10 to 16, 2010.

Lewy body dementia is a degenerative brain disease that has been described by LBD family caregivers as like trying to manage Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a psychiatric disorder rolled into one disease. Early and accurate diagnosis of LBD is of critical importance because people with LBD respond more poorly to certain medications for behavior and movement than people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, sometimes with dangerous or permanent side effects.

Recognition of LBD as a common form of dementia grew to prominence among neurologists only within the past five years, and general awareness of LBD as a disease has yet to make its way to primary care physicians. “Given the growing population of older Americans, at some point in your life LBD will likely affect someone you know,” said Angela Herron, President of LBDAs Board of Directors. “The general public, including many primary care doctors and nurses, have never heard of LBD. So in addition to trying to manage a very difficult disease, LBD families find themselves in the unanticipated role of educator and advocate.”

LBD symptoms include dementia plus any combination of: unpredictable levels of cognitive abilities, attention and alertness, changes in movement or gait, visual hallucinations, a sleep disorder where people physically act out their dreams, and severe medication sensitivities. The severe medication sensitivities in LBD make it a very difficult disease to treat without worsening already problematic LBD symptoms. At the same time, people with LBD may respond more favorably to certain dementia medications than people with Alzheimer’s.

To learn more about LBD

-ALzheimer’s Association: http://alz.org/alzheimers_disease_dementia_with_lewy_bodies.asp

-National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Dementia with Lewy Bodies Information Page
Information from one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

-Mayo Clinic – Lewy body dementia
Information from Mayo Clinic’s consumer health information Web site.

-Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc.
A nonprofit organization providing information and assistance to individuals with the disease, caregivers and medical professionals.

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