Lewy Body Dementia: Identification, Symptoms and Treatment

November 12, 2012

Lewy Body Dementia: Identification, Symptoms and Treatment

Lewy body dementia or LBD is a term given to two conditions – Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies or DLB. Lewy body dementia gets its name from scientist Frederich H. Lewy (1885 – 1950) discovered special proteins in unhealthy brain nerve cells. These bunches of proteins hamper many brain functions, including memory and behavior. These proteins are called Lewy bodies.


LBD in either form is incredibly difficult to diagnoses because the symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, poisoning or a malfunctioning thyroid gland. It may take one or two years after symptoms begin in order to just get a diagnosis. The Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc. estimate that LBD is often misdiagnosed because most doctors have little information about LBD.

Tests for diagnosis include looking at a patient’s personal medical history to see if he or she has suffered any condition that might lead to dementia of any form, with or without Lewy bodies. Patients may have their thyroids tested to rule out thyroid problems. Patients suspected of suffering from dementia are given mental status examinations in order to test whether all parts of the brain are operating normally.

Signs and Symptoms

Any type of dementia, including Lewy body dementia, brings out slightly different signs and symptoms in each patient. If the symptoms are not listed here, that does not mean the patient does not suffer from Lewy body dementia. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc. the most common symptoms are:

  • Inability or extreme difficulty in pay attention

  • Increasing periods of confusion

  • Problems with executive functions such as recognizing patterns or learning how to adapt to slight changes in the environment.

  • Persistent visual hallucinations

  • Coordination problems nearly identical to Parkinson’s disease patients

These symptoms tend to get worse over time. Some uncommon Lewy body dementia symptoms include:

  • Extreme changes in sleep, especially insomnia which may fuel the visual hallucinations

  • Taking anti-psychotic medications worsens instead of improves all of the other symptoms

  • Fainting

  • Frequently falling

  • Hearing voices or other noises that are not present

  • Olfactory hallucinations or smelling scents that are not present

  • Any other psychiatric problem


Treatment for this particular dementia is a combination of medications and therapies. Some patients can have a lessening of some symptoms with treatment but inevitably decline. Therapies include speech therapy, physical therapy as well as psychological therapy. Having the immediate family go into counseling can help caretakers and family members to best help their afflicted loved ones.

Patients may be prescribed a combination of medicines to treat various symptoms:

  • Chloinestrate inhibitors to help with hallucinations

  • Quetiapine for hallucinations

  • If the first two drugs do not work, the last resort is clozapine, but the patient needs regular blood tests to check for negative side effects from clozapine.

  • Antidepressants, starting with SSRIs like fluoxetine because they produce the least side effects

  • Medications for Parkinson’s disease

  • Sleep medications to help with insomnia or lack of dreaming which may promote hallucinations.

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