Lewy body dementia can be distinguished from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by comparing clinical profiles. The study compared 21 patients with Lewy body dementia to 21 Alzheimer’s patients and 21 Parkinson’s disease patients. Patients were matched based on age, gender, education, race, cognitive impairment, and physical impairment, and were compared based on cognitive, functional, and motor measures.
Principal investigator Dr. Douglas Scharre explained, “Many clinicians find it difficult to diagnose Lewy body dementia patients, often confusing them and misdiagnosing them as Alzheimer¹s disease or Parkinson¹s disease patients. Our study findings showed that the clinical profiles of Lewy body dementia patients can be differentiated from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. Since treatments and prognosis differ between these conditions, it’s important to correctly diagnose the patient from the start.”
The researchers found that Lewy body dementia diagnosis can be characterized by a specific cognitive profile along with body posture impairments and balance instability. When compared with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients, Lewy body patients have less amnesia, greater daytime sleep, cognitive/behavioral fluctuations, hallucinations, and sleep apnea.
Lewy bodies are collection of proteins that occur abnormally in the brain. They are not seen in Alzheimer’s disease, but may be found in other areas of the brain in Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Scharre added, “It’s vitally important that patients are correctly diagnosed so that they can be prescribed the proper medications that may help slow down the course of the disease or improve symptoms.”
Key differences between Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy body dementia
|Lewy body dementia||Alzheimer’s disease||Parkinson’s disease|
|Causes||Cause is often unknown.
May be inherited from a parent.
May be a result of environmental factors.
Combination of genetics and environment.
Changes in the brain result from clumping of alpha-synuclein (Lewy bodies).
|Cause is unknown.
Observed higher levels of amyloid proteins in the brain.
Genetics may play a role in the cause.
Plaques and tangles which kill off brain cells are observed in the brain.
|Certain nerve cells break down and die, resulting in characteristic symptoms.
Dopamine levels increase, causing abnormal brain activity.
Genetics, environment, and Lewy bodies may all play a role in Parkinson’s disease.
|Signs and Symptoms||Changes in thinking and reasoning.
Confusion and alertness that vary.
Parkinson-like symptoms such as rigid muscles and posture problems.
Trouble interpreting visual information.
Thinking and reasoning problems.
Judgment and decision-making becomes impaired.
Difficulty planning or performing familiar tasks.
Changes in personality or behavior.
Impaired posture and balance.
Loss of automatic movements.
|Diagnosis||Combination of tests must be used in order to properly diagnose Lewy body dementia as it may be confused with Parkinson’s disease.||With the presence of symptoms, your doctor may suspect you have Alzheimer’s disease.
Combination of tests are performed.
Complete accuracy of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease can only be achieved after death with an autopsy.
Lab tests, imaging tests, and physical and neurological exams can be performed.
|Imaging tests, blood tests, and neurological examinations can be used to properly diagnose Parkinson’s disease.|
|Treatment||Medications are used to manage symptoms of Lewy body dementia, but there is currently no cure.||Medications are the most common way to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important that the patient has a safe environment to live in, too.
|Medications and surgical procedures can be used to treat Parkinson’s disease.|