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Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

It is often difficult for physicians to diagnose Lewy body dementia because it is similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and because a patient may actually have a combination of these diseases. A person with Lewy body dementia may be diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia when symptoms first appear.

Although there are no specific tests for Lewy body dementia, doctors can make a diagnosis based on symptoms and behaviors. For diagnosis, patients must have experienced a progressive or continuing decline in the way they are able to function in daily life. If this requirement is met, then a person may either be diagnosed as having "probable" Lewy body dementia or "possible" Lewy body dementia. A diagnosis of probable Lewy body dementia requires that 2 of the 3 following characteristics be present. A diagnosis of possible Lewy body dementia only requires that 1 of the 3 are present (Merck, 2007).

  1. Fluctuating cognition: Has trouble with his or her memory or abilities to stay alert and attentive, but these symptoms may seem to get better or worse at times
  2. Visual hallucinations: Experiences and reacts to hallucinations that seem very real to him or her
  3. Parkinsonisms: Has some of the problems with movement and action similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease

View References

Merck and Company. Dementia: Delirium and Dementia. 2007. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec16/ch213/ch213c.html. Retrieved March 30, 2009.

Resources

Exams and Tests

Source: eMedicineHealth
Description: This web page on diagnosing Lewy body dementia discusses the different tests that should be performed before making a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia; however, a definitive diagnosis of Lewy body dementia is only possible after death.

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Fact Sheet: Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Source: Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA)
Description: This web page provides a thorough and easy-to-read discussion of dementia with Lewy bodies that includes basic facts about the disease, information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, and comparisons to other forms of dementia.

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