The Difference Between Parkinson’s and Dementia With Lewy Bodies

A caregiver who knows the difference between Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies helps an older adult through his doorway.
Make sure you know the difference between Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Year after year, countless American seniors are falsely diagnosed with Parkinson’s. For many of these people, the correct diagnosis is a very similar but not as well-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

There are over 1.3 million Americans living with dementia with Lewy bodies, as reported by the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate may very well be too low considering that a number of people who have been inaccurately identified as having Parkinson’s still have not been given an accurate diagnosis.

Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies share similar signs and symptoms, especially when they progress, since they reflect similar underlying modifications in the brain.

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

  • An increase in dementia symptoms – Growing confusion and reduced attention and executive function are typical. Memory impairment may not be evident during the early stages.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This can appear decades prior to the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Repeated visual hallucinations – These are typically complex and elaborate.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are the most frequent.
  • More common falls and fainting – This includes any undetermined loss in consciousness.
  • Other psychiatric disturbances – Most of these differ from patient to patient.

Just how important is an accurate diagnosis? Diagnosing DLB promptly and properly may well 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 will not only trigger serious adverse side effects, but could even worsen symptoms and prevent effective symptom management.

The uncertainty between Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies stems from the fact that they both fall under the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

A prominent distinction can be found in the “one-year rule” related to cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease by and large do not present cognitive issues until at least one year after mobility symptoms begin. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms appearing first for at least one year.

Dakota Home Care provides high-quality senior home care services in Bismarck, Lincoln, Mandan, Fargo and the surrounding areas for older adults with Parkinson’s, DLB, or any other chronic health condition or effects of growing older. Contact us online  or call us at (877) 691-0015 to set up a free in-home care assessment or to find out about how we can assist someone you love.

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