Information about Lewy Bodies & Dementia

Dementia with Lewy bodies accounts for 5 to 15 percent of dementia cases. This form of dementia shares characteristics and symptoms of both Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. The disorder is named for the Lewy bodies—tiny deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein—that are found throughout the brain.

People with this form of dementia tend to have attention problems, hallucinations, and some of the motor problems associated with Parkinson's disease (such as shuffling gait, poor balance, and stooped posture). Sleep problems (excessive daytime drowsiness, very vivid dreams, and leg kicks or arm swings while asleep) are common and may start years before any memory symptoms are noticed.

Cholinesterase inhibitors and the Parkinson’s drug levodopa (Larodopa) may be used to treat the symptoms. Antipsychotic drugs should not be prescribed or should be used with extreme caution because they can cause severe stiffness or tremor. As with Alzheimer's, none of these medications slows the progression of the disease.

Other possible causes of irreversible dementia include infectious diseases (such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) and amnesia.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 09 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2014