Memory problems and dementia are on the minds of many aging peopleó not just those with Parkinsonís disease.
Dementia is a description rather than a diagnosis. It refers to memory problems and difficulty in understanding or expressing knowledge. Dementia can include impaired judgment, reduced language skills or confusion severe enough to interfere with daily function.†
Alzheimerís disease is the most common cause of dementia. Cognitive decline can be associated with later stages of Parkinsonís disease or Lewy body dementia (LBD).
It can be tricky to separate dementia associated with Parkinsonís disease (PD) from LBD because both have motor symptoms and memory problems. Doctors rely on timing and certain symptoms to differentiate the two. When significant memory problems develop within one year of the onset of Parkinsonís motor symptoms, LBD is more likely.
Also, people with both conditions can have hallucinations and fluctuating levels of alertness and confusion, but these symptoms are often more pronounced in LBD.
Treatment for dementia associated with PD and with LBD is the same. Medications called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, such as rivastigmine (Exelon), are commonly used to treat memory problems. Doctors may prescribe specific medications targeting hallucinations or adjust Parkinsonís medications.†
Both Parkinsonís disease and Lewy body dementia are characterized by clumps of protein called Lewy bodies. Research is focused on determining the reason for the clinical differences between these diseases.