April 19, 2024

A senior man, helped by his caregiver, uses a walker to get into his home after returning from a doctor’s appointment to learn if he has Parkinson’s or dementia with Lewy bodies.

Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies can often be mistaken for one another, and a proper diagnosis is crucial.

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

Dementia with Lewy bodies impacts around 1.3 million Americans, as reported by the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate could possibly be too low considering that a number of people who’ve been incorrectly diagnosed with Parkinson’s still have not been given the correct diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms for the two diseases can be quite similar, particularly when they progress, because they mirror the same underlying alterations in the brain.

Here are the signs and symptoms you should be familiar with, as reported by the LBDA:

  • Intensifying dementia – Increasing confusion and decreasing attention and executive function are typical. Memory impairment may not be evident during the early stages.
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations – These are usually intricate and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are probably the most typical.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This tends to appear decades prior to the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Frequent falls and fainting – This includes undetermined loss in consciousness.
  • Other psychiatric disruptions – Most of these differ from patient to patient.

Is the correct diagnosis really critical? Diagnosing DLB quickly and properly could 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. Improperly treating DLB will not only cause serious adverse side effects, but can even worsen symptoms and preclude accurate symptom management.

Some of the confusion among doctors is due to the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB belong to the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

The most crucial difference 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 begin. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms showing up first for at least one year.

Continuum delivers high-quality senior home care services in St. Charles, Chesterfield, Sunset Hills, and the surrounding areas. Reach out to us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 to schedule a free in-home assessment or to find out more about the way we can assist a loved one with dementia.