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What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a type of dementia. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Lewy body dementia is associated with clumps of proteins that gather in nerve cells in the brain. LBD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

Some symptoms of LBD are symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

What Causes Lewy Body Dementia?

The cause of LBD is not known. On brain autopsy, there is a buildup of proteins in the brain forming Lewy bodies. People with LBD may also have the plaques and tangles in the brain similar to the ones found in Alzheimer’s disease.

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Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

Symptoms of LBD usually begin when you are over the age of 50. What symptoms start first varies from person to person.

Cognitive Symptoms

One common symptom of LBD is hallucinations. Hallucinations cause you to see things that are not there. Hallucinations can affect your other senses including touch, smell and sound. LBD can also cause delusions. Delusions are falsely held beliefs that include paranoia.

There are other cognitive symptoms associated with LBD:

Motor Symptoms

Other Symptoms 

Lewy body dementia can also affect your body’s involuntary processes. LBD can cause poor body regulation:

  • Dizziness when standing up (orthostatic hypotension)

  • Loss of bladder control (incontinence)

  • Heat intolerance

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Constipation

Diagnosing Lewy Body Dementia

Your neurologist will go over your medical history with you. People with LBD often have a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Dementia

  • Visual hallucinations

  • Changes in thinking or behavior

  • Parkinsonism (slowed movements, tremors, stiffness)

  • Dream enactment behavior

  • Fluctuation in attention or cognition

Your neurologist may suggest several tests:

  • MRI of the brain

  • Blood tests (to check for a vitamin B-12 deficiency or thyroid problem, for example)

  • Sleep study

  • PET scan to look at the metabolic activity of parts of the brain

Schedule an Appointment With our Neurologists

You'll need a referral from your primary care provider to see a neurologist in our Movement Disorders Clinic. Call 801-585-7575 to learn how to make an appointment with us.

Treatments for Lewy Body Dementia

There is not cure for Lewy body dementia. Treating LBD focuses on medications and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms. There are several treatment options available:


Medications can help make LBD symptoms more manageable. Some medication may help memory and thinking. Other medications may reduce hallucinations and other behavioral problems. Talk to your neurologist about medication because certain medications can make hallucinations worse.

If you are not distressed by the hallucinations caused by LBD, some medications may not be necessary.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Individuals with Lewy body dementia may benefit from rehabilitation therapies. There are several types of therapy that can be beneficial in treating LBD:

  • Physical therapy is helpful to prevent falls and improve mobility. Physical therapy can also help you know if you would benefit from a cane or walker.

  • Occupational therapy teaches you ways to manage daily activities.

  • Speech therapy provides treatment for slurred speech (dysarthria) and difficulty swallowing.

 Lifestyle Changes

 Simple measures such as modifying the environment can be helpful. Create a daily routine and keep tasks simple. Encourage exercise and find support in an LBD support group.                  

Lewy body dementia progresses gradually.  Exactly how the disease progresses varies from person to person. LBD is an active area of research. Reach out to your neurologist for updates on new treatments and clinical trials.

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