What is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

What is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

What is Parkinson’s Disease DementiaWhat is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

Parkinson’s disease dementia is a type of Lewy body dementia that begins with abnormalities in movement like rigidness, tremors, slowed movements, and a shuffling gait. Parkinson’s is a subtype of Lewy body dementia (LBD).

The other type of LBD is called “dementia with Lewy bodies.” Both are characterized by the accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein in particular regions of the brain. These protein sites are called “Lewy bodies” named after the German doctor, Friedrich Lewy, who first discovered them.  They affect the normal functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters help transmit signals between nerve cells. When Lewy bodies interfere with neurotransmitters, brain signals are interrupted leading to movement, thinking, processing, and perception problems.[1]

The difference between dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease

The difference between dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia has to do with the timing of cognitive and movement symptoms. According to the National Institute of Health, cognitive impairments in dementia with Lewy bodies are diagnosed within the year in which movement disorders were diagnosed.[2] Whereas with Parkinson’s disease dementia, movement disorders precede cognitive incapacities by many years.  Interestingly, those with parkinsonism, i.e. bodily movement disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease, may never develop dementia. Those with Parkinson’s, however, are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease dementia. [3]

Lewy bodies dementia, and Parkinson’s in particular, is treatable as long as it is diagnosed early and a comprehensive treatment plan is set out. Parkinson’s is not usually fatal but often progresses in severity which is why early diagnosis and treatment is necessary. Such treatment will include medications, physical therapy, and counseling. Medications can be extremely helpful, but they can also exacerbate symptoms of LBD. Your physicians should be able to guide you through this process very carefully and foresee any complications that may arise. It is always important to ask questions if you are unsure about anything.

As with many families who have someone living with dementia, caregiving may eventually be needed at home. If you have a loved one who has LBD, you can hire a caregiver from a nurse register like ElderCare at Home who will be able to help your loved one do daily activities. This form of support can often relieve many burdens if you are a family caregiver having difficulty caring for an afflicted loved one.

If you have any additional questions, visit ElderCare at Home’s website or call us at 800-285-0093.

[1] Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/nervous_system_disorders/dementia_with_lewy_bodies_134,76/ (accessed September 15, 2016).
[2] National Institute of Health. Lewy Body Dementia: Information for Patients, Families, and Professionals, https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/lewy-body-dementia/introduction (accessed September 15, 2016).
[3] Ibid.