When someone like Harry Lewis is showing signs of dementia, we assume it’s Alzheimer’s. Books, movies and multimillion dollar celebrity-supported advertising campaigns have raised awareness of Alzheimer’s, but most of us don’t know anything about Lewy body dementias (LBDs). But maybe we should pay more attention to Lewy bodies:
• 20 to 25 percent of people with dementia have dementia with Lewy bodies (Lewy Body Dementia Association estimate)
• An estimated 30 percent of people with Alzheimer’s also have Lewy bodies in their brains at autopsy (Florida Brain Bank data presented at ICAD 2008)
• Parkinson’s disease (which affects more than 4 million people worldwide) is also a Lewy body disorder. Almost everyone with Parkinson’s develops some problems with memory and thinking. Estimates of how many eventually develop full-blown “Parkinson’s Disease with Dementia” range from 33 to 78 percent.
Even though the percentage of dementia patients with Lewy bodies is high, this often goes undiagnosed. Part 2 of this series will explore why diagnosis is so difficult.