Each year, thousands of American seniors are told they have Parkinson’s disease, but in reality, they don’t. For many of these seniors, the actual diagnosis is a similar but lesser-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). As part of our Parkinson’s caregiver support, our home health experts are here with the information you need to understand the differences between these two conditions.
Dementia with Lewy bodies impacts as many as 1.3 million Americans, as reported by the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate may very well be too low, considering that some individuals who’ve been incorrectly identified as having Parkinson’s still have not been given the correct diagnosis.
Symptoms for the two diagnoses can be extremely similar, especially as they progress, given that they mirror the same root modifications in the brain.
Below are the signs and symptoms you should watch for, as reported by the LBDA:
- Worsening dementia – Growing confusion and minimized attention and executive function are common. Memory impairment may not be apparent in the early stages.
- Frequent visual hallucinations – These are typically intricate and detailed.
- Hallucinations of other senses – Touch or hearing are usually the most common.
- REM sleep behavior disorder – This may show up years prior to the onset of dementia or Parkinson’s.
- Repeated falls and fainting – Including unexplained loss of consciousness.
- Other psychiatric disruptions – Most of these vary from patient to patient.
Is a correct diagnosis actually critical? Diagnosing DLB quickly and accurately may well mean the difference between life and death, according to Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital and Elliott Professor of Neurology. Improperly treating DLB can not only lead to significant adverse reactions, but could even exacerbate symptoms and preclude accurate symptom management.
Some of the confusion among medical professionals stems from the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB come under the same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.
The primary distinction is in the “one-year rule” related to cognitive symptoms. Patients with Parkinson’s disease typically do not present cognitive issues until at least one year after mobility symptoms begin. DLB is typically the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms emerging first for at least one year.
Harmony Home Health & Hospice, the leading provider of home nursing care in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas, is always here with the Parkinson’s caregiver support and education you need. Reach out to us at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE to arrange for a free home care assessment or to find out about how we can assist your loved one.