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Do certain treatments for Parkinson’s also work for Lewy body dementia?

By | May 9th, 2021

The short answer is yes. The symptoms can be very similar. It is very difficult to tell apart, especially in the early stages. Parkinson’s disease is not always the same either. There are patients who start [experiencing] cognitive impairment earlier in the disease. Some patients have tremor, others don’t. Some patients are asymmetric, some are not as much.

There is a great variability even within the Parkinson’s disease group and the Lewy body dementia group and there is quite a bit of overlap. Having said that, the treatment for both is so called symptomatic. Unfortunately, at this moment, we don’t have anything that would interfere with the synucleinopathy itself, which is sort of the root cause of all the problems, or the neurodegeneration or the related neuroinflammation.

But we have treatments for the symptoms. The nigrostriatal dopaminergic system has a dopamine deficit. Dopamine is a neurochemical that the brain cells use to chat with one another, and there is not enough of that in both of these diseases. Some dopamine-based symptomatic treatments will help Parkinson disease as well as diffuse dementia with Lewy body disease patients.

If you have cognitive impairments like Parkinson’s disease dementia, which is very similar to Lewy body dementia, there are some medications to improve memory and cognition, which will work in both. [There are also interventions such as] physical therapy, occupational therapy, antidepressant treatments, and the list goes on and on. There are a lot more that are similar in the clinical management of the disease than there are different.

There are many non-pharmacological interventions and treatments and it’s truly a multidisciplinary effort. But all that is to make the symptoms more bearable and the quality of life better.

These are all referred to as symptomatic treatments, which do not alter the course of the disease, and do not interfere with that underlying pathology that I discussed before, and that is the holy grail. That is what everyone is trying to get to. There is tremendous effort and investment of research dollars throughout the world in trying to resolve that.