Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson’s disease, but they are different conditions. The build-up of Lewy bodies is also found in Parkinson’s, and leads to symptoms like movement problems and tremors. Dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia can affect people in very similar ways. If memory problems and dementia symptoms appear before or at the same time as movement problems and symptoms, then a diagnosis of DLB is likely to be given. About 10-15% of all people with dementia have DLB. This means that approximately 100,000 people in the UK have DLB. It affects both men and women, usually older than 65 years.

What are Lewy Bodies?

Lewy bodies are protein deposits that can be found in the brain of people with DLB and with Parkinson’s disease. Scientists still don’t know exactly how they cause dementia but they may lead to loss of connections between brain cells. The symptoms that people with DLB will experience depend on where the Lewy bodies are found. When Lewy bodies are mostly found in the deeper parts of the brain, they lead to problems with movements and Parkinson’s disease. When they are found in the outer parts of the brain they tend to lead to problems with thinking and DLB.

Common symptoms

DLB affects different people in different ways. It often causes problems with concentrating and staying alert. Although day to day memory can also be affected, it is less of a problem than in people with Alzheimer’s disease. People with DLB and their families often notice that thinking and memory problems vary from day to day or even hour to hour. DLB can also cause visual hallucinations, such as seeing animals or people that are not really there. In many people, these are not troublesome, and would only need treatment if they become distressing. People with DLB may notice that their
movements are slower or stiff. Some people have problems with falling. Other symptoms can include problems with bladder or bowel function, and sleep troubles. DLB is a progressive condition and symptoms generally become worse over time. The rate at which symptoms become worse varies from person to person.

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