Treatment can be challenging, and there's no cure for Lewy body dementia. Instead, doctors treat the individual symptoms.
- Cholinesterase inhibitors. These Alzheimer's disease medications, such as rivastigmine (Exelon), work by increasing the levels of chemical messengers believed to be important for memory, thought and judgment (neurotransmitters) in the brain.
This can help improve alertness and cognition, and may help reduce hallucinations and other behavioral problems. Possible side effects may include gastrointestinal upset, excessive salivation and tearing, and frequent urination.
- Parkinson's disease medications. These medications — such as carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet) can help reduce parkinsonian symptoms, such as rigid muscles and slow movement — in some people with Lewy body dementia. However, these medications may also cause increased confusion, hallucinations and delusions.
- Antipsychotic medications. These medications, such as quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and others, may somewhat improve delusions and hallucinations. However, some people with Lewy body dementia have a dangerous sensitivity to some of these drugs. Reactions, which are sometimes irreversible, can include severe parkinsonian symptoms and confusion.
- Medications to treat symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat other symptoms associated with Lewy body dementia, such as sleep or movement problems.
Because antipsychotic drugs can worsen Lewy body dementia symptoms, it might be helpful to initially try nondrug approaches, such as:
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- Merely tolerating the behavior. Many times a person with Lewy body dementia isn't distressed by the hallucinations and even recognizes them as such. In these cases the side effects of medication may be worse than the experience of the hallucinations themselves.
- Modifying the environment. Reducing clutter and distracting noise can make it easier for someone with dementia to focus and function. It can also reduce the risk that the person with Lewy body dementia will misperceive objects in the environment and produce behavior similar to hallucinations.
- Modifying your responses. A caregiver's response to a behavior can make the behavior worse. It's best to avoid correcting and quizzing a person with dementia. Reassuring the person and validating his or her concerns can help resolve many situations.
- Modifying tasks and daily routines. Break tasks into easier steps and focus on successes, not failures. Structure and routine during the day also help reduce confusion in people with dementia.
- NINDS Dementia with Lewy bodies information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dementiawithlewybodies/dementiawithlewybodies.htm. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Hake AM, et al. Clinical features and diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
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- Diagnosis. Lewy Body Dementia Association. http://www.lbda.org/content/diagnosis. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
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- Symptoms. Lewy Body Dementia Association. http://www.lbda.org/content/symptoms. Accessed Feb. 1, 2013.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
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- Communication and Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-communication-tips.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- Creating a daily plan. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/dementia-creating-a-plan.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
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- Sleep issues and sundowning. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-sleep-issues-sundowning.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- Buettner LL, et al. Animal-assisted therapy for clients with dementia. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 2011;37:10.
- Being a healthy caregiver. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-healthy-caregiver.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- Respite care. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-respite.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- Caregiver stress. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-stress-burnout.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- U.S. News best hospitals 2012-2013. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Smith GE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 28, 2013.