Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, behind Alzheimer’s disease. It affects the central nervous system, causing a variety of physical symptoms including stiffness, difficulty walking, problems with balance and poor posture.
As the disease progresses, many people experience dementia and a loss of cognitive function. This form of dementia is commonly referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia or Lewy Body Dementia.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and it can be a difficult disease to deal with — for both the person afflicted with Parkinson’s and their family. This article will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments for Parkinson’s disease dementia.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
Scientists have identified a number of changes in the brain that are related to Parkinson’s disease. One of those changes is a buildup of microscopic deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein.
Scientists do not know the precise role of alpha-synuclein in the brain, but excessive deposits of this protein are linked to a variety of brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The buildups are called “Lewy Bodies”, after the scientist who discovered them in 1912 — Frederic Lewy. Scientists suspect that a genetic defect makes the brain incapable of processing alpha-synuclein correctly, leading to Lewy bodies developing.
In addition to Lewy bodies, people with Parkinson’s disease dementia often have plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques are unusual clusters of a protein called beta-amyloid that builds up between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau. Normally, tau helps to transport brain signals, but when the fibers become twisted, nutrients can no longer travel throughout the brain correctly. Plaques and tangles are common in many other forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Approximately 50 to 80 percent of people who have Parkinson’s disease will also suffer from cognitive impairment. About 20% go those people will suffer from a severe cognitive impairment that is classified as Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
The first symptoms that a person with Parkinson’s disease will experience are physical. The dementia component may appear later as their Parkinson’s disease progresses. The most severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
Parkinson’s disease will only affect the cognitive abilities of a person in some cases — typically after the disease has progressed to its later stages. If a person’s cognitive abilities are seriously impaired, it is referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia include:
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Treatments
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is a range of treatments available including various drugs, surgery, and physical rehabilitation. These treatments cannot cure the condition, but can improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s sufferers by reducing their symptoms.
How Non-Medical Home Care Can Help
Living with Parkinson’s disease dementia can be very difficult. However, with some help, it is possible for Parkinson’s sufferers to remain in the comfort of their own home — in a comfortable and familiar environment that they enjoy. Some of the ways that home care can help a person with Parkinson’s disease include:
We hope you found this article on Parkinson’s disease dementia informative. If you have any questions about managing Parkinson’s disease dementia, contact All Heart Home Care at 619-736-4677. We offer in-home consultations and would love to discuss the many home care services available.
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia | Signs, Symptoms, & Diagnosis. (2016). Dementia. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from http://www.alz.org/dementia/parkinsons-disease-symptoms.asp
Symptoms | Lewy Body Dementia Association. (2016). Lbda.org. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from https://www.lbda.org/content/symptoms
Charles Patrick Davis, P. (2016). Parkinson Disease Dementia: What’s the Progression?. eMedicineHealth. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/parkinson_disease_dementia/article_em.htm