3.11 Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is diagnosed when someone has the symptoms of dementia first and then develops Parkinson’s-like symptoms. In some cases of dementia with Lewy bodies, no motor symptoms may develop at all.

Symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies

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Dementia with Lewy bodies affects a person’s memory, language, concentration and attention. It also affects their ability to recognise faces, carry out simple actions and their ability to reason. It tends to progress at a faster rate than Parkinson’s and may not respond well to Parkinson’s medications.

People with this form of dementia commonly experience visual hallucinations, which can be quite vivid. This can happen early on in the condition. They might also experience difficulty in judging distances and movements, which can cause them to fall over for no apparent reason.

The condition can also cause someone to experience episodes of confusion, which can change a lot from hour to hour or over weeks or months.

Some people may also develop Parkinson’s-type symptoms, such as slowness of movement, stiffness and tremor. In some cases, a person’s heart rate and blood pressure can also be affected.

‘'I'm also honest with Heather - if she tells me something that I've forgotten, I'll just say, "If you told me, I don't remember.’

Chris, who now lives with vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s

What are the causes?

Lewy bodies are tiny protein deposits that develop inside some nerve cells in the brain, causing these cells to die. The loss of these cells causes dementia. It’s not yet understood why Lewy bodies occur in the brain and how they cause this damage.

Dementia with Lewy bodies shares similarities with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s dementia, although it is usually more aggressive than Parkinson’s dementia. It is progressive, so the symptoms will get worse over time.

Treating dementia with Lewy bodies

There isn’t a cure or specific treatment for dementia with Lewy bodies at the moment, but there are medications that some people may find effective. These may include dementia medications and Parkinson’s medications.

Some people may respond well to Parkinson’s medication, especially if they have Parkinson’s-like symptoms such as stiffness or rigidity. However, some side effects of these drugs can make the symptoms of dementia worse, especially confusion.

Using medication to treat dementia can be helpful. But it’s also useful for people to get treatment from a wide range of healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians and speech and language therapists. They can help the person with dementia and those supporting them.

3.10 Parkinson’s dementia

3.12 Caring for someone with Parkinson’s dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies