Dementia With Lewy Bodies

What is dementia with Lewy bodies?

Dementia with Lewy bodies (or 'Lewy body dementia') is a common form of dementia in which abnormal proteins develop inside the brain cells. This condition commonly affects older adults. It is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease. People with dementia develop problems with thinking, reasoning, planning and memory. There is no cure for dementia, though many people learn to live with their symptoms.

Risks

Lewy body dementia is characterized by the formation of Lewy bodies (proteins) in the nerve cells in the brain. This is similar to the processes which occur in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer dementia). Risk factors for this condition include being older than 60, being male, and having a family member who has had this condition, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia are difficulties with thinking, memory, planning and reasoning. Other symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include visual hallucinations, movement disorders (such as tremors, stiff limbs and slowed movements), dizziness and falls, bowel issues, sleeping problems (sleep walking, or calling out during sleep), and depression.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is made by a doctor assessing the symptoms and performing a complete neurological examination and assessment of the mental abilities (such as memory testing). Blood tests and a CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are often done to exclude any other possible causes for the symptoms.

Treatment

There is no cure for Lewy body dementia but it is possible to learn to manage symptoms. It is helpful to get the ongoing advice of a doctor, nurse, occupational therapist and physiotherapist, all of whom can help develop strategies to ease some of the everyday difficulties of living with Lewy body dementia, such as difficulties with memory, confusion, eating, dressing, etc. Medications may be prescribed to help to improve the thinking and memory, to help with tremors and stiffness, or to improve sleep.

Other names for dementia with Lewy bodies

  • Cortical Lewy body disease
  • Diffuse Lewy body disease
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Senile dementia of Lewy type