After Alzheimer's disease, it’s been thought that vascular dementia was the second most common type of the condition. However, Lewy body dementia seems to be on the rise.
What makes this type of dementia unique? Patients with Lewy body dementia have the same memory impairments as those with Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and other types of dementia — aphasia, apraxia, agnosia — but they also experience at least two out of three of the following dementia symptoms:
- Visual hallucinations
- Fluctuations of consciousness
People with Lewy body dementia who experience visual hallucinations will see fully formed, detailed images that aren't there. Often the hallucinations take the form of children, animals or figurine people. But they could be anything.
Unlike other conditions in which a patient might see shadowy figures out of the corners of their field of vision, the visual hallucinations of someone with this type of dementia are as clear as day. Sometimes the hallucinations experienced by those with Lewy body can be benign, but other times they can be frightening.
Those with Lewy body dementia have Parkinsonism. It resembles Parkinson's disease, but often Lewy body patients don’t exhibit the classic “pill-rolling” hand tremors. Usually, Parkinsonism is more subtle.
For example, a patient might have a symptom called cogwheeling, which means a ratcheting effect occurs when the patient moves their arms up and down. They have this motor stiffness and a shuffling gait that is very Parkinsonistic.
People with Lewy body also may lose their facial expressions.
Fluctuations of Consciousness
Some patients with dementia periodically have “spells,” otherwise known as fluctuations of consciousness.
A fluctuation in consciousness might be an episode of classic sundowning, where the person becomes more confused and disoriented around nightfall, or any other change of personality or consciousness. It might occur daily or periodically.
Doctors consider this symptom the hardest to confirm. However, if a person has two out of three of the symptoms described above, they would meet criteria for Lewy body.
Do you care for someone with Lewy body or another type of dementia and need resources to help? For more information, download our free ebook Most Common Types of Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia and More.
If you're looking for a comprehensive resource for family caregivers, check out our online Family Caregiver Guide.