Lewy body disease is a form of dementia which, in some ways, seems similar to Alzheimer's but may strike patients much earlier. In fact, "Lewy body disease is thought to be the second most common form of dementia. It causes cognitive problems similar to those seen in Alzheimer's disease and motor problems like those in Parkinson's" (Lewy.org 1). "Lewy" is the name of the doctor who discovered the deposits found in the brain after death. "Lewy bodies are round deposits which contain damaged nerve cells. They are probably formed as the cells try to protect themselves from attack" (Anon 1). Among the early symptoms are memory loss, trouble with language, the inability to carry out simple tasks and hallucinations such as seeing a person or a pet in a chair or on the bed when there is no one there. "There is no cure for Lewy body disease, and it usually ends in death, often progressing more quickly than Alzheimer's. Some people respond to the dopamine replacement drugs which are used to treat Parkinson's disease particularly if there are Parkinsonian symptoms" (Anon 3).
According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association's Fall 2005 newsletter, REM sleep disorders may signal the disease onset, and the hallucinatory effects may be the key to determining that this is not Alzheimer's. "60% of the hallucinations are visual, about 13% auditory and the rest vary among smells, taste and touch" (LBD 2).
Anonymous: "Lewy Body Disease" The Alzheimer's Disease Society of Great Britain, October, 1997 easyweb.easynet.co.uk/vob/ alzheimers/information/lewbody.htm
Lewy.org: "Lewy Body Disease Journal" www.lewybodyjournal.org/journal
Lewy Body Dementia Association, Newsletter, Fall 2005