About Lewy body dementia
Our unique multidisciplinary patient care team approach allows 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 the disease process, 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.
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
Since there currently is not a single test to diagnose Alzheimer’s, a careful medical evaluation is needed. During this evaluation, your physician will also test for other conditions that may cause dementia like symptoms like depression, thyroid problem or a vitamin B12 deficiency among other conditions.
During this assessment, your provider will:
- Review your medical history
- Physical exam
- Neurological testing
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Cognitive and neuropsychological tests
- Genetic testing
- Laboratory testing
- Brain imaging
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. Research also supports the benefits of aerobic exercise and healthy diet for brain health.
Causes and risks
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
- Risk increases after the age of 60
- Men have an increased risk of being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia
Interested in learning more about neurodegenerative diseases?
Join us for our educational series, Dialogue on Dementia, featuring renowned physicians and scientists for dialogue on research regarding the onset and progression of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
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