Lewy body dementia, also known as dementia with Lewy bodies, is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control).
Lewy body dementia causes a progressive decline in mental abilities. People with Lewy body dementia might have visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention. Other effects include Parkinson's disease signs and symptoms such as rigid muscles, slow movement, walking difficulty and tremors.
Products & Services
Lewy body dementia signs and symptoms can include:
- Visual hallucinations. Hallucinations — seeing things that aren't there — might be one of the first symptoms, and they often recur. People with Lewy body dementia might hallucinate shapes, animals or people. Sound (auditory), smell (olfactory) or touch (tactile) hallucinations are possible.
- Movement disorders. Signs of Parkinson's disease (parkinsonian signs), such as slowed movement, rigid muscles, tremor or a shuffling walk can occur. This can lead to falling.
- Poor regulation of body functions (autonomic nervous system). Blood pressure, pulse, sweating and the digestive process are regulated by a part of the nervous system that is often affected by Lewy body dementia. This can result in sudden drops in blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension), dizziness, falls, loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) and bowel issues such as constipation.
- Cognitive problems. You might have thinking (cognitive) problems similar to those of Alzheimer's disease, such as confusion, poor attention, visual-spatial problems and memory loss.
- Sleep difficulties. You might have rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, which can cause you to physically act out your dreams while you're asleep. This might involve behavior such as punching, kicking, yelling and screaming while sleeping.
- Fluctuating attention. Episodes of drowsiness, long periods of staring into space, long naps during the day or disorganized speech are possible.
- Depression. You might develop depression.
- Apathy. You might lose motivation.
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
Lewy body dementia is characterized by the abnormal buildup of proteins into masses known as Lewy bodies. This protein is also associated with Parkinson's disease. People who have Lewy bodies in their brains also have the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease.
A few factors seem to increase the risk of developing Lewy body dementia, including:
- Age. People older than 60 are at greater risk.
- Sex. Lewy body dementia affects more men than women.
- Family history. Those who have a family member with Lewy body dementia or Parkinson's disease are at greater risk.
Lewy body dementia is progressive. Signs and symptoms worsen, causing:
- Severe dementia
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased risk of falling and injury
- Worsening of parkinsonian signs and symptoms, such as tremors
- Death, on average about seven to eight years after symptoms start
Lewy body dementia care at Mayo Clinic
June 08, 2021
- Dementia with Lewy bodies information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dementia-Lewy-Bodies-Information-Page. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.
- Farlow MR. Clinical features and diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.
- AskMayoExpert. Dementia with Lewy bodies (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2020.
- Coupland CAC, et al. Anticholinergic drug exposure and the risk of dementia: A nested case-control study. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2019; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0677.
- Diagnosing and managing Lewy body dementia: A comprehensive guide for healthcare professionals. Lewy Body Dementia Association. https://www.lbda.org/healthcare-professionals/. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.
- Understanding behavioral changes in dementia. Lewy Body Dementia Association. https://www.lbda.org/understanding-behavioral-changes-in-dementia/. Accessed Feb. 16, 2021.
- Taylor J-P, et al. New evidence of management of Lewy body dementia. Lancet Neurology. 2020; doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30153-X.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic. Jan. 20, 2021.
- Press D, et al. Management of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. https://www.uptodate.com/search/contents. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.
- McKeith IG, et al. Research criteria for the diagnosis of prodromal dementia with Lewy bodies. Neurology. 2020; doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009323.
- Graff-Radford J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Feb. 25, 2021.
Products & Services
Mayo Clinic has been recognized as one of the best Neurology & Neurosurgery hospitals in the nation for 2022-2023.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2022–2023 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.
Learn more about this top honor