LBD: What is it?
Lewy Body Dementia is so called because the brains of affected people develop abnormal spherical masses of protein, called Lewy bodies, inside nerve cells. Lewy bodies are associated with Parkinson’s disease as well as dementia. Thus Lewy body dementia can refer to both Parkinson’s disease dementia and “dementia with Lewy bodies”. Lewy bodies are also often found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Unlike Alzheimer’s, however, dementia with Lewy bodies characteristically (but not invariably) begins with visual hallucinations.
Prevalence of LBD
Estimates of its prevalence are complicated by the lack of clearly defined clinical criteria, and vary widely. A 2005 review1 concluded that the range probably falls between 0 to 5% in the general population, and from 0 to 30.5% of all dementia cases (the very broad range reflects the confusion between Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), dementia with Lewy bodies, and Alzheimer’s where Lewy bodies are present).
How does LBD differ from Alzheimer's & PDD?
A comparison of these three disorders found that cognitive impairment in those with Alzheimer's disease and those with Lewy body dementia was similar, and more severe than in those with Parkinson's disease dementia.
The 1997 study2 also found that a simple test, in which patients are asked to draw and copy a clock face, distinguished those with Alzheimer’s and those with Lewy body dementia — of all the groups, only those with Lewy body dementia had equally poor scores in the “copy” part of the test compared to the “draw” part.
For more information:
Lewy Body Dementia Association: http://www.lewybodydementia.org/
- Zaccai, J., McCracken, C. & Brayne, C. 2005. A systematic review of prevalence and incidence studies of dementia with Lewy bodies. Age and Ageing, 34(6), 561-566.
- Gnanalingham, K.K. et al. 1997. Motor and cognitive function in Lewy body dementia: comparison with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 62, 243-252.