Neck Gland May Help Diagnose Lewy Body Dementia

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Lewy body dementia is second only to Alzheimer’s in the dementia landscape, and early diagnosis is essential in order to provide optimal care for a patient. Unfortunately, diagnosis can often be tricky. However, a new study indicates that clues to Lewy body dementia may be found in a gland in the neck, and this may help diagnose the condition more readily.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

brain.jpgAs mentioned above, Lewy body dementia is a common form of dementia and comes with all of the memory and cognitive issues one normally associates with that disorder. However, this particular form of dementia is often accompanied by hallucinations, drowsiness, “dreaminess” (staring into space), and attention issues. In addition, Lewy body dementia shares some symptoms in common with Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, slowness of movement, and a stiffening and rigidity in the muscles.

The Gland

In a recent issue of the  Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, scientists reported on a study which found a source for a marker for Parkinson’s which is also often an indicator of Lewy body dementia. The marker is called Lewy-type α-synucleinopathy (LTS).
Previously, scientists have discovered LTS in the brains of Parkinson’s and Lewy body patients who have passed away. Clearly, performing a biopsy on the brain of a living person is too risky an undertaking, so researchers have been looking for other parts of the body where LTS might be found.
The current study looked at a particular gland in the neck, called the submandibular gland, which is where saliva is generated. Scientists again used deceased patients for this study. LTS was found in this gland in 71% of the patients they examined who had Lewy body dementia. Significantly, it was not found in any of the study subjects who did not have Lewy body dementia.
These results are strongly suggestive that performing a biopsy on the submandibular gland of a living person may yield information that can help determine if Lewy body disease is present. However, further studies using living people will be needed to confirm this.
While a neck gland biopsy may be uncomfortable, it should not carry the same degree of risk as a biopsy of the brain.
Earlier identification of Lewy body dementia should be useful in helping a doctor determine the best approach to take in suggesting treatment.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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