Most misdiagnosed form of dementia leaves patients, doctors unprepared

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the most misdiagnosed form of dementia, taking on average more than 18 months and three doctors to receive a correct diagnosis. Even though it is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as the most common cause of progressive dementia, affecting 1.3 million Americans, the symptoms of LBD are not well recognized by many physicians, especially primary care physicians and other general practitioners. Unfortunately, then, most people are not diagnosed until they are at moderate or severe states, leaving their caregivers unprepared and the patient vulnerable to potentially deadly medication side effects.

“Recognizing LBD at its earliest stage is critical not only for an accurate diagnosis by the appropriate specialist but also because it is important for a patient with LBD to be managed by an expert familiar with dementia in general and LBD in particular,” says Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair Emeritus, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Elliott Professor of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. “A primary care physician with the best intentions may not be well informed about LBD, so it becomes the duty of the patient and caregiver to know about resources, such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), for help when needed.”