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Health & Fitness

LBD confused with Alzheimer's

GARY LeBLANC Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:16 PM

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The second-most common type of dementia is known as Lewy body dementia (LBD). It completely amazes me when I realize the lack of awareness among the general public and, worse, medical professionals regarding this disease.

So many caregivers whose loved ones have this disease have told me they are constantly having to explain exactly what this malady is to people in the medical profession.

Twenty to 30 years ago, doctors hardly used the word "Alzheimer's" at all when diagnosing. Now they may be throwing it out there a little too quickly.

Nearly 80 percent of those with LBD were initially diagnosed with a different type of cognitive impairment. Many who are currently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease may later find it changed to LBD.

Dissimilar characteristics of dementia need to be treated differently. This is why an early and correct diagnosis is so important.

It is my opinion that LBD is the worst of all types of dementia. I say this because just the visual hallucinations alone are so very profound. Fifteen or 20 years ago, many patients with this disease were rejected from nursing homes due to the behaviors that came from their hallucinations and delusions. It was quickly nicknamed "Little People's Disease," because that is what many of the sufferers believe they are seeing, even at times screaming and arguing with these "little people." Often, the behavior problems become too intense for mental health staff to handle.

Other symptoms of this disease are:

And the list goes on.

The actual culprits that cause the disease are protein deposits called "Lewy bodies" that accumulate in nerve cells (neurons) in regions of the brain. This causes the cells to degenerate and die over a period of time.

Sadly, there is no single test available that can diagnose the disease. Instead, doctors have to go through a process of elimination of other diseases. Like all other types of dementia, we are still in the learning process.

As for the long-suffering caregivers, I truly understand that all types of dementia are challenging. However, there is a special place in my heart for those caring for a loved one who has LBD.

When I was caring for my dad who had Alzheimer's and he began to experience hallucinations and delusions, I found this to be the most difficult period for me to endure. I can only imagine how wearisome it would be caring for someone with LBD all the time.

Please stay strong and do your best to make sure that those you are caring for know you will always be there for them.


Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His books, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness" can be found at www.commonsensecargiving.com.

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