Lewy Body Dementia, or Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a progressive, degenerative disease that shares characteristics with both Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. It is caused by the abnormal accumulation of microscopic protein clumps in the brain that disrupt mental functioning and cause the brain to slowly deteriorate. DLB is a ‘clinical’ diagnosis, which means it represents a doctor’s best professional judgment about the reason for a set of symptoms. The only way to conclusively diagnose DLB is through post mortem brain histology.
(DLB) primarily affects adults over the age of 65 and is more common in males. It can develop at random, but there is a hereditary component. While not as well known as other dementias, DLB is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for about 20 percent of dementia cases worldwide.
Patients with DLB lose cognitive function but are less prone to the short-term memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. More often, they experience greater problems with executive functioning, planning, and organization. Also common are visual hallucinations (observed in 75% of people with DLB), such as seeing shapes, colors, people, or animals that aren’t there. Most people with DLB develop similar symptoms, including variable attention, recurrent hallucinations, shuffling gait, tremors, a blank expression, and sleep problems. Victims of DLB will exhibit at least two of three core features:
- Changes or “fluctuations” in awareness and concentration. Episodes can be unpredictable and last anywhere from a few seconds to several hours.
- Spontaneous Parkinson’s-like motor symptoms, such as slowness of movement, rigid muscles, tremor, lack of facial expression, or abnormal gait.
- Recurrent visual hallucinations or delusions, such as seeing things that aren’t there and conversing with deceased loved ones.
As with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms of DLB worsen over time, with intellectual and motor functions deteriorating, typically, over several years.
C. Social Security Administration – POMS: DI 23022.610 Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy Body Dementia is listed under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.
There is no single test to identify the presence of DLB. For purposes of your application for disability benefits, clinical information from your treating physician, neurologist, or psychiatrist documenting progressive dementia is critical and required for disability evaluation of DLB. An Activities of Daily Living Report completed by a relative or caregiver also will be requested to document the progressive loss of functional ability.
Your representative may be able to assist in expediting your claim if you have a diagnosis of DLB.