What Is Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

Dementia is a condition that affects your ability to think, reason, and process information. It can also affect your personality and memory. Dementia is progressive, which means it continues to develop over time. There are several types of dementia with different causes.

Of the forms of dementia caused by degeneration of the tissues in the brain, Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a common type after Alzheimer’s disease (AD). People with DLB have an accumulation of abnormal protein particles called alpha synuclein in their brain tissue.

Alpha synuclein is also found in the brain tissue of people with Parkinson's disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA), although the location in the brain is different in these conditions.

The presence of Lewy bodies in DLB, PD, and MSA suggests a connection among the conditions.

Facts about DLB

Dementia with Lewy bodies was first recognized as a diagnosis in the 1980s. Because the signs and symptoms of DLB resemble those of other forms of dementia, researchers think that the number of diagnoses is lower than the number of cases that actually exist.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), DLB has three features that distinguish it from other forms of dementia:

  • Fluctuating effects on mental functioning, particularly alertness and attention, which may resemble delirium
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations
  • Parkinson-like movement symptoms, such as rigidity and lack of spontaneous movement

Other than advanced age, no specific risk factors for dementia with Lewy bodies have been established. DLB generally appears between the ages of 50 to 85, but it has been seen in younger people. Men are affected by DLB slightly more often than women. If you have a family member with dementia with Lewy bodies, you are at a somewhat increased risk. Some studies have suggested that a healthy lifestyle might delay onset of dementia associated with increased age.

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