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Dementia with Lewy bodies – Symptoms and causes

Dementia with Lewy bodies is also known as Lewy body dementia. It is the second most common type of progressive dementia after the Alzheimer’s disease dementia. Protein deposits (known as Lewy bodies) develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (the motor control). The Lewy body dementia is causing a progressive decline in mental abilities. People, who have dementia with Lewy bodies, may experience changes in alertness and attention and visual hallucinations. [1]

There can be other effects, such as Parkinson’s disease like – signs and symptoms, such as tremors, slow movement and rigid muscles. The emotional and physical demands of caregiving can be exhausted. You may experience social isolation, grief, worry, discouragement, frustration, guilt and anger. You should talk with your friends and family to give you the support which you need a lot at the moment.

dementia with lewy bodies causes

Dementia with Lewy bodies symptoms

The signs and symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include:

  • Apathy: You can have a loss of motivation. [2]
  • Depression: You can experience depression sometime during the course of your illness. [3]
  • Fluctuating attention: Disorganized speech, long naps during the day, long periods of staring into space and episodes of drowsiness are possible. [4]
  • Sleep difficulties: You may have REM (rapid eye movement) sleep behavior disorder, which can cause you to physically act out of your dreams while you are asleep. [1]
  • Cognitive problems: You can experience thinking problems similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss, visual – spatial problems, poor attention and confusion. [1]
  • Poor regulation of the body functions (autonomic nervous system): The digestive process, sweating, pulse and blood pressure are regulated by a part of the nervous system, which is often affected by the dementia with Lewy bodies. This can result in bowel issues, such as constipation and falls and dizziness.
  • Movement disorders: Some signs of Parkinson’s disease, such as shuffling, tremor, rigid muscles or slowed movement can also happen. This can result in falls. [1]
  • Visual hallucinations: Hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms and they often recur. They may include seeing people, animals or shapes that are not there. Also, touch, smell and sound hallucinations are possible.

You should discuss about your symptoms with your doctor, who may refer you to a doctor trained in dementia, which is usually a doctor trained in brain and nervous system conditions or mental health conditions. You need to be prepared for your appointment, because appointments can be brief and there is often a lot to talk about. Also, you can bring your family members to the appointment.

You should write a detailed description of your symptoms, so your doctor can give you the right diagnosis. If you are taking supplements, vitamins or medications, then you should tell them to your doctor. If you have some questions, do not doubt to ask your doctor.

Dementia with Lewy bodies causes

The dementia with Lewy bodies is characterized by abnormal buildup of proteins into masses known as Lewy bodies. Also, this protein is associated with the Parkinson’s disease. People, who have dementia with Lewy bodies in their brains, also have the plaques and tangles associated with the Alzheimer’s disease.

Risk factors

There are some factors which can increase the risk of dementia with Lewy bodies, such as

  • Family history: People, who have a family history of dementia with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease, have higher risk of getting this disease. [5]
  • Age: People who are older than 60 are at great risk for dementia with Lewy bodies. [6]
  • Sex: It is noticed that dementia with Lewy bodies affects men more than women.


The dementia with Lewy bodies is progressive dementia. There can be some signs and symptoms that this condition is worsening, such as

  • On average, death happens about eight years after symptoms start
  • Worsening of Parkinson’s signs and symptoms, such as tremors
  • Increased risk of falling and injury
  • Depression
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Severe dementia


[1] National Institute on Aging. What is lewy body dementia? Retrieved from

[2] University of Cambridge. Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms. Science Daily. 2020. Retrieved from

[3] Chiu PY, Wang CW, Tsai CT, et al. Depression in dementia with Lewy bodies: A comparison with Alzheimer’s disease. PLoS One. 2017; 12(6): e0179399. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179399

[4] Ballard C, O’Brien J, Gray A, et al. Attention and fluctuating attention in patients with dementia with lewy bodies and Alzheimer disease. Archives of Neurology. 2001;58(6):977-82. doi:10.1001/archneur.58.6.977

[5] Meeus B, Theuns J, Van Broeckhoven C. The genetics of dementia with lewy bodies what are we missing? Archives of Neurology. 2012;69(9):1113-8. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.3678

[6] Nagahama Y, Okina T, Suzuki N. Neuropsychological differences related to age in dementia with lewy bodies. Dementia Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra. 2017;7:188–94.

Elene Jordanova
Elene Jordanova
Elena Jordanova is a medical researcher from Macedonia with specialization in Internal Medicine


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