Episode 87: What is Lewy Body Dementia and How Does it Relate to Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a multi-factorial condition, with the potential to affect all aspects of people’s lives. Besides the well-known motor and non-motor symptoms, it also can lead to dementia, characterized by impairment of such mental functions as cognition, memory, and judgment, leading to forgetfulness, limited social skills, and difficulties in daily functioning. The decline in mental abilities can range from mild cognitive impairment that does not affect work or daily functioning to dementia, with much in-between the two. Dementia in PD mainly affects a person’s ability to pay attention or concentrate, to multitask and solve problems (executive function), and their visuospatial skills, meaning their ability to see information in three dimensions. It may have less effect on memory than some other forms of dementia.

Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) falls under the umbrella term of Lewy body dementia, along with another condition being dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). In both diseases, Lewy bodies, clumps of alpha-synuclein and other proteins, accumulate in nerve cells in the brain, causing them to lose function.

Because of their similarities, PDD and DLB are distinguished mainly based on when movement symptoms and dementia arise. People with PD early on experience movement symptoms, and years to decades later may develop PDD. With DLB, movement symptoms and dementia start together or within a year of each other. Dr. Jennifer Goldman is the section chief of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the Shirley Ryan Abilitylab and professor of physical medicine, rehabilitation, and neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. In this podcast, she describes the similarities and differences between PDD and DLB, talks about medications and cautions, and offers people with PD important suggestions for coordinating medical care and when accessing care.

Released: August 11, 2020

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