Information on the Brain Syndrome, Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Germany Copes With Growing Alzheimer And Dementia Cases. Credit: Alexandra Beier / Contributor / Getty Images

Although you may not be as familiar with Dementia with Lewy bodies, as you are with Alzheimer's disease, it's the second most common type of dementia.

Let's learn about the basics of Dementia with Lewy Bodies in this question and answer style format.

What is Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

Dementia with Lewy Bodies, or DLB, refers to a type of dementia associated with abnormal protein deposits in the brain, called Lewy bodies, which affect how the brain functions.

What are the Common Symptoms of Dementia with Lewy Bodies?

 People with Dementia with Lewy Bodies commonly experience these symptoms:

  • Fluctuations in thinking, visuospatial ability, and information processing associated with difficulty speaking, finding words and recognizing things.
  • Fluctuating alertness — for example, a person may become extremely drowsy, then suddenly have a burst of energy, making it difficult for family members to evaluate how their relative is doing.

  • Problems with memory, which tend to occur later in the disease.
  • Movement problems, like stooped posture and lack of facial expression — most have symptoms of parkinsonism, meaning resembling those of Parkinson's disease.
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations, especially of people and animals. These often provoke an emotional reaction, even though the person knows they are not real.
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, in which a person may act out their vivid dreams.
  • Behavioral and mood symptoms, including frequent falls, depression, and having delusions.
  • Changes in autonomic body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature regulation, and bladder and bowel function.

Diagnosis of Dementia with Lewy Bodies

No singular test can definitively diagnose Dementia with Lewy Bodies, as Lewy bodies can only be identified through a brain autopsy.

As with Alzheimer's disease, a complete diagnostic workup should be performed in order to rule out other possible causes of the person's symptoms. This includes a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain.  Other neuroimaging tests like a single photon emission CT (SPECT) may be helpful in making the diagnosis. 

Treatment for Dementia with Lewy Bodies

There is currently no cure for Dementia with Lewy Bodies, but there are medications that can help with symptom management. While no drugs have been approved by the FDA to specifically treat it, Alzheimer's treatments have been shown to be helpful.

It's interesting to note that some researchers have found that those with Dementia with Lewy Bodies respond better to cholinesterase inhibitors, like Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (rivastigmine), and Razadyne (galantamine), than those with Alzheimer's disease.

Because individuals with Dementia with Lewy Bodies often have Parkinson's-like movement problems, medications for Parkinson's disease can sometimes treat related symptoms.

However, they can also increase confusiondelusions, and hallucinations, so are used carefully and with close monitoring by a person's doctor.

Behavior management strategies are also useful for managing the difficult behavioral symptoms of Dementia with Lewy Bodies. For instance, physical therapy and speech therapy are often useful. Simple strategies, like reducing caffeine intake and providing relaxing activities in the evening, may improve sleep patterns and decrease violent outbursts during the night. 

In addition, antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can be used to treat the depression associated with Dementia with Lewy Bodies. 

What Does This Mean for Me or My Loved One?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Dementia with Lewy Bodies, be sure to address all your concerns and questions with your doctor. It's also a good idea to consider having a family meeting if you are ready and comfortable. This way you can discuss issues, like goals of care and treatment expectations. 


Alzheimer's Association. (2015). Dementia with Lewy bodies. Retrieved November 21st 2015. 

Lewy Body Dementia Association. Learn about LBD: Treatment. Retrieved November 21st 2015. 

Zupancic M, Mahajan A & Handa K. Dementia with lewy bodies: diagnosis and management for primary care providers. Prim Care Companion CND Disord. 2011;13(5).

Continue Reading