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Dementia is a syndrome associated with the progressive deterioration of the brain. Therefore, it commonly affects memory and behaviour. Depending on the type of dementia someone has, it can impact the symptoms they experience.
Lewy body dementia, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, is one type of dementia that develops slowly, over years.
It is rare in people under the age of 65 and tends to worsen gradually over years.
According to the National Institute on Ageing (NIH), Lewy body dementia symptoms typically affect cognition, movement, sleep, and behaviour.
One of the most common cognitive symptoms of Lewy body is hallucinations – seeing, hearing or even smelling things that aren’t there.
The NIH explains: “People with Lewy body dementia may not have every symptom associated with the disease.
“Any sudden or major change in functional ability or behaviour should be reported to a doctor.”
The institute says that visual hallucinations affect almost all Lewy body patients.
“Visual hallucinations occur in up to 80 percent of people with Lewy body dementia, often early on.
“Non-visual hallucinations, such as hearing or smelling things that are not present, are less common than visual ones but may also occur.”
This was backed by a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2011.
The study said: “Visual hallucinations are a feature of many psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as prototypical conditions such as Charles Bonnet syndrome.
“However, their prevalence is particularly high in Lewy body diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease with dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies; and in the latter up to 80 percent of individuals are affected.
“Untreated, visual hallucinations in dementia with Lewy bodies can markedly impair quality of life and significantly increase caregiver distress.”
Other cognitive symptoms of Lewy body include changes in concentration and loss of thinking abilities.
“Ideas may be disorganised, unclear, or illogical,” the NIH says.
“These kinds of changes are common in Lewy body dementia and may help distinguish it from Alzheimer’s disease.
“Severe loss of thinking abilities that interfere with daily activities.
“Unlike in Alzheimer’s dementia, memory problems may not be evident at first but often arise as Lewy body dementia progresses.
“Other changes related to thinking may include poor judgement, confusion about time and place, and difficulty with language and numbers.”
Other symptoms of Lewy body to be aware of include:
- Slow movement, stiff limbs and tremors (uncontrollable shaking)
- Disturbed sleep, often with violent movements and shouting out
- Fainting spells, unsteadiness and falls.
If you are concerned a loved one has Lewy body dementia you should organise an appointment with their GP.
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