Symptoms of dementia can be confused with Parkinson’s disease

The Chase star Paul Sinha gives Parkinson's health update

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The dementia subtype in question is Lewy Body Dementia, one of the most common forms of the disease and a form of dementia rare in those under the age of 65.

Lewy body dementia is a condition associated with abnormal deposits of a protein known as alpha-synuclein in the brain, these deposits affect chemicals in the brain which lead to problems with thinking, movement, and behaviour.

According to the NHS, symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:

• Hallucinations
• Marked swings between alertness and confusion
• Tremors
• Slow movement
• Stiff limbs
• Fainting
• Unsteadiness
• Falls
• Disturbed sleep
• Difficulty swallowing
• Depression.

Due to the similarity between some of these symptoms and those of Parkinson’s, it is possible for the two conditions to be mixed up for one another, an occurrence which befell one of Hollywood’s brightest minds.

Robin Williams was one of the great comedic talents of the 20th Century and his death in 2014 was a great tragedy. At the time of his death he had been diagnosed and was being treated for early-stage Parkinson’s disease.

However, when an autopsy was carried out, it was discovered that he had actually been suffering from Lewy body dementia and had been misdiagnosed.

Such was the extent of the damage to William’s brain that a paper was written on his condition. The author of the paper, Mr William’s wife Susan Schneider wrote: “All four of the doctors I met with afterwards and who had reviewed his records indicated his was one of the worst pathologies they had seen.

“He had about 40 percent loss of dopamine neurons and almost no neurons were free of Lewy bodies throughout the entire brain and brainstem.”

It is for this reason that it is essential to get an accurate and correct diagnosis so that what treatments there are can be administered for either Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia, says the NHS.

Furthermore, the most common symptoms of Lewy body dementia are problems with:

• Thinking speed
• Understanding
• Judgement
• Visual perception
• Language
• Memory.

The NHS cautions that these “problems may be constant but typically tend to come and go”; as a result, the patient’s condition will fluctuate as it gradually declines and the disease progresses.

Meanwhile, common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:

• Tremors
• Stiffness
• Slowness of movement
• Mild memory and thinking problems
• Sleep problems
• Pain
• Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

While, both dementia and Parkinson’s disease are both major health problems which place a significant health burden on healthcare systems, the population are not powerless, there are things they can do to reduce their risk of the conditions.

This includes engaging in an act which most doctors warn against: drinking beer. According to a new study, drinking beer may reduce the risk of developing dementia.

The Australian study conducted an analysis of 25,000 participants in order to investigate the neurological impact of drinking beer on the brains of over-60s. They found those who drank the equivalent of two pints a day were 30 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who drank no beer at all.

Despite this apparently positive finding, this does not mean people should start drinking two pints of beer a day, a point the researchers behind the study were keen to make.

Head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Doctor Sara Imarisio said: “The results showed that people who never drank alcohol had a higher chance of developing dementia than those who did.

“These results are consistent with previous research on this topic, which also show that heavy consumption of alcohol, as well as not drinking, seems linked to a higher risk of dementia.”

Subsequently, while drinking no beer at all could increase your risk of dementia so too can drinking beer in excess.

Drinking excessive alcohol can also lead to a range of other conditions including liver disease and cancer.

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