Lewy body dementia is a debilitating and progressive disease. From onset to the end of life, there are a number of symptoms that typically get worse as time goes on. With that in mind, it is important to understand the stages, symptoms, and life expectancy of this serious disease.
What Is Lewy Body Dementia?
Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia. Not only motor control but also memory and reasoning abilities are affected by the buildup of protein deposits in the nerve cells related to these areas.
This is a progressive disease, with the rate of progression of Lewy body dementia taking, on average, 8 years. However, unlike Alzheimer’s, symptoms can fluctuate. This means your loved one can seem well one day and then be completely disengaged the next and showing signs of severe memory loss.
In fact, this fluctuation of symptoms is one thing that sets it apart from Alzheimer’s, which tends to have straightforward symptoms that gradually get worse from day one.
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Lewy Body Disease Stages
This disease has three stages, including early stages, middle stages, and then the final stages of Lewy body dementia. In the early stages, you can expect to see urinary incontinence, hallucinations, and difficulty walking. Unlike Alzheimer’s, a person’s memory is still quite good, although there may be a little confusion at times.
In the middle stages, impaired movement is more obvious with falls and trouble walking. In addition, the patient may have trouble speaking. Lewy body dementia swallowing problems also show up in this stage. Finally, you will notice a decrease in a person’s cognitive abilities.
Lewy body dementia end-stage symptoms include sensitivity to touch and severe muscle rigidity. Speech becomes quite difficult, and the patient may only be able to speak in a whisper. Pneumonia becomes a danger due to the person’s weakened state and may end up being the cause of death.
End-stage Lewy body dementia requires around-the-clock care for the patient, as they are no longer able to do many if not all of the activities of daily living.
Other possible symptoms that can occur throughout the stages of the disease include:
- Staring into space for long periods of time
- Poor attention span
- Memory loss
- Shuffling walk
Lewy Body Dementia Life Expectancy
The Lewy body disease life expectancy typically ranges from 5 to 8 years. There are cases of individuals living as long as 20 years after they have been diagnosed, but those cases are the exception and not the rule.
While there is no cure for Lewy body dementia, as a caretaker or loved one, you can help improve the patient’s quality of life and help yourself by understanding the stages and what is to come down the line. Be sure to talk to your loved one’s primary care provider for information on how you can find support and help keep your loved one safe and secure.