About Lewy body dementia

We approach dementia care as a team. Allowing our patients to have all tests needed for diagnosis and treatment completed in one appointment.

Lewy body dementia, also referred to as dementia with Lewy bodies, is the second most common form of dementia in older adults.

In Lewy body dementia, a protein normally found in the brain, accumulates and forms clusters called Lewy bodies. The Lewy bodies aggregate in areas of the brain important for memory, thinking and movement, causing changes in these behaviors.

Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease meaning symptoms will worsen over time.

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia symptoms include:

  • Vivid visual hallucinations of shapes, animals or people
  • Changes in thinking like poor attention, memory lapses and difficulty understanding spatial relationships
  • Periodic episodes of disorganized and confused thoughts
  • Movement disorder symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, like slowed motor movements, shuffling walk, poor balance, tremors and rigid muscles
  • Loss of smell
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep disturbances including acting out dreams
  • Irregularities of autonomic nervous system functioning that may cause dizziness, constipation and fluctuations in blood pressure control
  • Feelings of depression
  • Lack of interest in activities

Diagnosing Lewy Body Dementia

Since there currently is not a single test for a Lewy body diagnosis, a careful medical evaluadtion is needed. During this evaluation, we will also test for other conditions that may cause dementia like symptoms like depression, thyroid problem or a vitamin B12 deficiency among other conditions.

This evaluation will include:

  • Review of your medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Neurological testing
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Cognitive and neuropsychological tests
  • Genetic testing
  • Laboratory testing
  • Brain imaging

Treatment of Lewy Body Dementia

Currently there is no cure for Lewy body dementia, but there are medications to help manage symptoms. Cholinesterase inhibitors such as rivastigmine and donepezil may help slow cognitive decline. Medications to treat Parkinson’s disease such as Levodopa may be prescribed to reduce motor difficulties.

Physical and occupational therapy can be helpful for improving balance, increasing mobility and preventing falls. Speech and cognitive therapy can be useful for addressing changes in thinking and language production.

Our care is built on groundbreaking research and innovative new therapies for dementia.

Because of the world-renowned research at the Biggs Institute, our patients have access to the newest and most advanced treatments through clinical trials.

Learn more about clinical trials

Causes and Risks of Lewy Body Dementia

The exact causes of Lewy body dementia are unknown.
Risk factors include:

  • Family history
    • Having a family member with Lewy body dementia or Parkinson’s disease can increase risks of developing Lewy body dementia
  • Age
    • Risk increases after the age of 60
  • Gender
    • Men have an increased risk of being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia

Lewy Body Dementia Resources

For more information and local resources on Lewy body dementia, visit the Lewy Body Dementia Association.

Interested in learning more about neurodegenerative diseases?

Join us for Dialogue on Dementia where we bring renowned physicians and scientists to you for open discussion on Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

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