Lewy body dementia stages generally begin with motor impairment before progressing to more obvious signs of dementia, including forgetfulness, confusion, a loss of speech and a blank facial expression. Some who are stricken with this brain disorder may also experience hallucinations, sleep disorders and body tremors in the beginning stages. Symptoms vary among individuals with this progressive condition, with some who are in the early stages showing either no signs of dementia or exhibiting very fleeting symptoms. Individuals in the early stages also may experience symptoms similar to someone in the latter stages, such as incontinence and difficulty swallowing. Not every person with Lewy body dementia experiences the same symptoms; the stages of this condition, therefore, tend to vary from person to person and are not always predictable.
As a progressive brain disorder, the Lewy body dementia stages can occur quite rapidly. In its earliest stages, symptoms may fluctuate from day to day or even from moment to moment. A person may appear fine one moment, but suddenly experience an onset of extreme confusion the next.
Also evident in the early stages of this brain disorder is a disturbance known as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, or RBD. Research has even indicated that RBD may be a precursor of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Symptoms of this disorder include movement and talking during sleep. Upon waking, a person with DLB shows marked signs of confusion. This condition is due to alpha-synuclein or ubiquitin protein that has disturbed brain chemistry by gathering in the neurons.
Sometimes characterized as Parkinson’s disease dementia, the various Lewy body dementia stages often mimic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For example, a person’s gait may change as they begin to walk more slowly or even shuffle as they walk. Body tremors, a blank stare and drooling are also common at various stages, but occur more frequently during mid-stages.
During the latter stages, a person may have difficulty chewing and swallowing due to poor muscle control and may need to be fed intravenously. Individuals in this stage often become dehydrated or experience problems relating to malnutrition and constipation. Because the stages of Lewy body dementia are not necessarily gradual, these symptoms may present rather suddenly and even, seemingly, out of the blue.
Unlike other forms of dementia, DLB progresses rather rapidly. A person with this disorder usually dies within two to 20 years of beginning Lewy body dementia stages. The average lifespan of a person with this condition, however, typically ranges from five to seven years after the initial diagnosis.