L37 — September 2011 — Living With Lewy Body Dementia
Intro: It happened little by little. First he would forget things, then he'd lose track of what he was doing. Lewy body dementia took over the life of the man you're about to meet. The disease is the second most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's being the first. There is no cure, but experts at Mayo Clinic are researching Lewy body disease in hopes of improving the lives of people who struggle with it.
In hindsight, there were things going on before, but you think: He's 75. I'll be there some day. It's just part of aging.
But the little changes Marjorie Zellers noticed in her husband Richard were early signs of Lewy body dementia.
His expressions were almost not there anymore.
Richard also developed parkinsonism, which often accompanies a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia.
Stiffness in walking; his gait changed tremendously.
Their lives have also changed tremendously.
He was a boater, tennis player, racquetball player.
Richard is not independent anymore. His symptoms are slowly getting worse.
Six months ago, I just kept thinking it's going to go back. I wanted it to go back. But it's taken a long time to realize that it's not.
In moments of clarity, Richard describes what it's like to slowly lose function.
It's like you wrote all your information on a blackboard and someone came in with an eraser and zaps through it. And what's left is the problem. The other ones are gone and they're not going to come back. But you can improve on it.
And improving on it is what Dr. Tanis Ferman and Dr. Dennis Dickson strive to do.
We try very hard to detect and diagnose as early as possible, because our goal is to try to reduce the patient suffering, improve their quality of life, and if we can increase a person's level of functioning to a higher level early on, that's a — an appropriate goal for us.
Dr. Ferman says it's key to make sure the diagnosis is correct. You see, Lewy body disease is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease and the two may respond differently to some medications. And because there is no cure — the disease will inevitably progress — Dr. Dickson is researching what Lewy body disease does to the brain.
The idea is to find molecular underpinnings of the disorders that can be used for biomarkers to diagnose it accurately, and also if we study the molecular and pathologic underpinnings of the disorder, those might lead to avenues for treatment.
The hope of new treatments to improve the lives of people like Richard Zellers.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
In addition to making sure the diagnosis is accurate so patients can get on proper medications, Dr. Ferman says it's also important to help patients and their caregivers get the support they need at home. That can ensure a better quality of life for patients and their loved ones.
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