DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Three women who were in high school at the same time I was have died of Lewy body dementia. Do only women have it? No one I have talked to knows anything about it. I would appreciate any information you can provide. — L.P.
ANSWER: Dementia is a decline in mental functioning. Memory loss is prominent. Simple arithmetic skills (balancing a checkbook), expressing oneself clearly and logically, and making rational judgments are greatly diminished in a person with dementia. “Dementia” is an umbrella word that covers the loss of these basic mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, but it is not the sole cause. Multiple small strokes, Binswanger’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and frontotemporal dementia are other causes. Second to Alzheimer’s as a cause is dementia with Lewy bodies.
Lewy bodies, named in honor of the pathologist Dr. Friedrich Lewy, who first described them, are blobs of peculiar material within brain cells. They stain a striking color when special dye is applied to brain tissue viewed with a microscope. Somehow they bollix up brain function.
Definite proof of dementia with Lewy bodies rests on microscopic examination of the brain after death. However, some unique signs of this illness make it diagnosable during life. In addition to the symptoms of dementia, Lewy body patients often see things that aren’t there — visual hallucinations. They have symptoms found in Parkinson’s disease — muscle rigidity, slow movement, walking disturbances with frequent falls. Patients have fluctuating alertness, periods of lucidity intermixed with longer periods of utter confusion.
Men as well as women get this illness.
What causes it is a question that remains unanswered.
Sometimes drugs used for Alzheimer’s disease improve symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies. Parkinson’s drugs are prescribed to lessen the features of that illness, but they do not work as well as they do in Parkinson’s disease.
The booklet on Alzheimer’s disease delves into the signs and treatment of that all-too-prevalent illness. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 903W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Six years ago a family member said she had breast cancer. Her doctor recommended that she see a surgeon. She never saw one. She has had no chemotherapy or radiation or any other sort of cancer treatment. Six years later, she looks the same as she always did, without any sign of cancer.
Does cancer ever cure itself? Could it have been misdiagnosed? Have you ever heard of someone surviving breast cancer without any treatment? — N.N.
ANSWER: I have never seen breast cancer cured without treatment. I don’t believe it happens. If others have evidence to the contrary, let me know.
I would ask those people the same questions I would ask your relative: Did the doctor say it “might be” cancer? If the doctor was definite about the diagnosis, was a biopsy done, or on what evidence was the diagnosis made? I would be most interested to learn the facts.
©2010 North America Synd.