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Alzheimer's may be the best-known forms of dementia, but there are many types of loss-of-memory diseases--and knowing which one a family member has can make a difference in treatment. That's why there were cheers when specialists announced a new three-minute diagnostic tool that can screen for the second most common types of dementia, Lewy Body disease (LBD).
People with LBD suffer from memory loss, but they also have hallucinations; difficulty walking, sleeping, paying attention or staying alert; and serious fainting spells. Although he was originally diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Robin Williams actually had LBD. That's a very common mistake--even though there are now 1.4 million people with LBD.
The new test is a one-page questionnaire that requires yes or no answers from the patient or caregiver. It's designed to focus on the main symptoms of LBD, including motor function, posture, and hallucinations. In a sample trial, it was able to tell the difference between those with Alzheimer's and LBD almost 97 percent of the time.
Why is this important? Because people with LBD sometimes respond better to certain dementia medications than those with Alzheimer's, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. The right drugs given at an early enough stage makes the difference in a person's quality of life and later health. And that's worth cheering about.