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Treatment and Prognosis of Lewy Body Dementia

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Updated June 08, 2010

Treatment for Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is very difficult to treat. Unfortunately, people with Lewy body dementia often have severe adverse reactions to antipsychotic medications, which are otherwise helpful in treating symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Therefore, the use of antipsychotic medications for the treatment of Lewy body dementia is not generally recommended.

No drugs have been approved by the FDA to specifically treat Lewy body dementia, but Alzheimer's treatments have been shown to be helpful. In fact, some researchers say that those with Lewy body dementia respond better to cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne, than those with any other type of dementia.

  • Profile: Aricept (donepezil)
  • Profile: Exelon (rivastigmine)
  • Profile: Razadyne (galantamine)

Because individuals with Lewy body dementia often have Parkinson's-like problems, medications for Parkinson's disease can help treat related symptoms. However, they can also increase confusion, delusions, and hallucinations.

Behavior management strategies are also useful for managing the difficult behavioral symptoms of Lewy body dementia. Reducing caffeine intake, increasing physical activity during the day, and providing relaxing activities in the evening can improve sleep patterns and decrease violent outbursts during the night.

Prognosis for Lewy Body Dementia

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Lewy body dementia. One study found that the average life expectancy for a person with Lewy body dementia after the symptoms first appear was 7 years. However, individuals with Lewy body dementia have lived anywhere between 2 and 20 years, depending on age, the severity of symptoms, and coexisting medical conditions.

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Dementia with Lewy bodies. Alzheimer's Association. November 21, 2007. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_dementia_with_lewy_bodies.asp

Knopman, D., & Jankowiak, J. (2005). Not all dementia is Alzheimer's: Dementia with Lewy bodies. Neurology, 65, E26-E27.

Monique M. Williams, MD, Chengjie Xiong, PhD, John C. Morris, MD and James E. Galvin, MD, MPH. "Survival and mortality differences between dementia with Lewy bodies vs Alzheimer disease." Neurology, 2006

What is Lewy body dementia? Lewy Body Dementia Association. 2007. http://www.lewybodydementia.org/lbdinfo.php

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