If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, you might be wondering what to expect as the disease progresses. Is there a fairly typical progression like Alzheimer's disease where it begins in early stages that are fairly uniform, then moves to middle stages and then to late stages? Well, yes and no; the answer is a bit more complicated.
Progression of Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia does not progress the same way Alzheimer's disease does. It does have characteristics that often can be categorized as likely to occur in the earlier stages, and other symptoms that are likely to develop as it progresses. However, a major difference in Lewy body dementia is that its symptoms can significantly fluctuate.
In fact, one of the hallmarks of Lewy body dementia is fluctuation of cognitive functioning. For example, the memory of a person with Lewy body dementia might function fairly well one day and the next day, he may appear to be totally disengaged and exhibit a poor memory.
In general, the earlier stages of Lewy body dementia may involve hallucinations or other distortions of reality, restlessness, acting out dreams during sleep, and movement difficulties. Lewy body dementia often progresses to symptoms that resemble Parkinson's such as increased impairment of motor functions and falls, difficulty with speech and increased delusions. In the later symptoms, extreme muscle rigidity and sensitivity to touch may develop.
Alzheimer's Association. Dementia with Lewy bodies. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://www.alz.org/dementia/dementia-with-lewy-bodies-symptoms.asp
Alzheimers North Carolina. Dementia with Lewy bodies. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://www.alznc.org/index.php/alzheimers-similar-diseases/77-lewy-bodies
Alzheimer Scotland. Dementia with Lewy bodies. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://www.alzscot.org/downloads/lewybody.pdf
American Family Physician. 2006 Apr 1;73(7):1223-1229.Dementia with Lewy Bodies: An Emerging Disease. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0401/p1223.html
Lewy Body Dementia Association. Caregiver FAQ. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://www.lbda.org/content/caregiver-faq
Lewy Body Dementia Association. Diagnosis. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://www.lbda.org/content/diagnosis
Lewy Body Dementia Association. The Role of Palliative and Hospice Care in Lewy Body Dementia. http://www.lbda.org/content/role-palliative-and-hospice-care-in-lbd#course
University of Florida. AlzOnline. Lewy Body Dementia. Accessed March 26, 2013. http://alzonline.phhp.ufl.edu/en/reading/lewybody.php