What is Lewy Body Dementia?
First, some definitions:
- Dementia: progressive deterioration of mental capacity that compromises independent living.
- Lewy body: abnormal aggregation or clumping of the protein alpha-synuclein, discovered by Frederick H. Lewy, M.D., in the early 1900s, which are present in the brains of Parkinson’s Disease patients.
- Lewy body dementia: an umbrella term that covers two closely related clinical diagnoses, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). The difference between these terms is subtle: dementia with Lewy bodies develops early while dementia with Parkinson’s disease develops late. For both PDD and DLB, the protein alpha-synuclein abnormally accumulates in the brain. Approximately 1 million individuals, most over 50 years old, suffer from Lewy body dementia in the United States.
No disease-modifying therapies for DLB or PDD are approved or available. Treatments include levodopa for motor symptoms, anti-psychotics to control hallucinations, and donepezil, rivastigmine, and memantine to improve cognitive function.
Lewy body dementia came to attention after the comedian and Mrs. Doubtfire/Good Will Hunting actor, Robin Williams, committed suicide in 2014 because of an undiagnosed battle with it.