Under-Diagnosis of Dementia with Lewy Bodies in Individuals Racialized as Black: Hypotheses Regarding Potential Contributors

Congratulations to Dr. Melissa Armstrong on the publication of “Under-Diagnosis of Dementia with Lewy Bodies in Individuals Racialized as Black: Hypotheses Regarding Potential Contributors,” which appears in the February issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is one of the most common degenerative dementias after Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia. DLB is under-diagnosed across populations but may be particularly missed in older Black adults. The object of this review was to examine key features of DLB and potential associations with race in order to hypothesize why DLB may be under-diagnosed in Black adults in the U.S. In terms of dementia, symptoms associated with high rates of co-pathology (e.g., AD, vascular disease) in older Black adults may obscure the clinical picture that might suggest Lewy body pathology. Research also suggests that clinicians may be predisposed to give AD dementia diagnoses to Black adults, potentially missing contributions of Lewy body pathology. Hallucinations in Black adults may be misattributed to AD or primary psychiatric disease rather than Lewy body pathology. Research on the prevalence of REM sleep behavior in diverse populations is lacking, but REM sleep behavior disorder could be under-diagnosed in Black adults due to sleep patterns or reporting by caregivers who are not bed partners. Recognition of parkinsonism could be reduced in Black adults due to clinician biases, cultural effects on self-report, and potentially underlying differences in the frequency of parkinsonism. These considerations are superimposed on structural and systemic contributions to health (e.g., socioeconomic status, education, structural racism) and individual-level social exposures (e.g., social interactions, discrimination). Improving DLB recognition in Black adults will require research to investigate reasons for diagnostic disparities and education to increase identification of core symptoms in this population.