Could a Parkinson’s Misdiagnosis Be Dementia With Lewy Bodies?

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An older man who received a Parkinson’s misdiagnosis gets help from a caregiver walking through his doorway.

Someone you love may have received a Parkinson’s misdiagnosis, and the symptoms could instead be the result of dementia with Lewy bodies.

There are thousands of people in America every year who receive a Parkinson’s misdiagnosis. For most of these people, the correct diagnosis is a very similar but lesser-known disease: dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).

1.3 million Americans are living with dementia with Lewy bodies, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA). That estimate may be too low considering that a number of people who’ve been incorrectly identified as having Parkinson’s still haven’t been given the correct diagnosis.

A Parkinson’s misdiagnosis isn’t that unlikely when you consider how similar the signs and symptoms for the two diseases can be, particularly as they progress, since they exhibit the same root alterations in the brain.

Below are the symptoms you should be aware of, as reported by the LBDA:

  • Frequent visual hallucinations – These are typically complicated and detailed.
  • Hallucinations of other senses – Hearing and touch are among the most common of these.
  • Intensifying dementia – Experiencing confusion more often and reduced executive function and attention are frequent. Memory impairment might not be apparent during the early stages.
  • Recurring falls and fainting – This includes any unexplained loss in consciousness.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – This can show up decades ahead of the onset of dementia and Parkinson’s.
  • Other psychiatric disturbances – Most of these vary from patient to patient.

Getting a correct diagnosis is vital. Diagnosing DLB quickly and properly may well mean the difference between life and death, according to Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital and Elliott Professor of Neurology. Incorrectly treating DLB will not only cause significant adverse side effects, but can even exacerbate symptoms and prevent accurate symptom management.

Part of why Parkinson’s misdiagnoses occur is because of the fact that both Parkinson’s disease and DLB are categorized in the exact same umbrella of Lewy body dementias.

The “one-year rule,” which refers to the cognitive symptoms is the main difference between the two. Patients with Parkinson’s disease in most cases do not present cognitive issues until at least one year after movement symptoms begin. DLB is the exact opposite, with cognitive symptoms appearing first for at least a year.

San Diego Home Caregivers delivers high-quality senior home care services in San Diego, La Jolla, Point Loma, and the surrounding areas. Give us a call at (619) 487-9000 or contact us online to set up a free in- home care assessment  or to learn more about the way we can help someone you love with Parkinson’s, DLB, or any other concern.