Another common type of dementia is dementia with Lewy bodies. It’s the second most prevalent form of progressive dementia behind Alzheimer’s disease.

Lewy bodies are collections of abnormal proteins that accumulate in the brain and cause cognitive damage to brain cells.

This form of dementia is characterized by stiffness and gait troubles, also called Parkinsonism, as well as difficulties with problem-solving, memory loss and visual processing difficulties.

Our dementia specialists at the Memory Disorder Clinic at The Ohio State University have been at the forefront of diagnosing, studying and caring for people with Lewy body dementia. For many years, we have been one of the national research centers of excellence in Lewy body dementia. For example, our researchers have discovered ways to better differentiate dementia with Lewy body from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and that has transformed our approach to treatment.

Where you go dementia care matters. Here at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, our dementia specialists will support you and your family in every aspect of your dementia care and needs.

What causes dementia with Lewy bodies?

This form of dementia happens when Lewy bodies, which are collections of abnormal proteins, accumulate in the brain.

We’re still unsure exactly what causes Lewy bodies to appear, but we’re studying links between genetics and other risk factors.

The disease usually appears after the age of 60, but besides age, the only other known risk factor is the presence of conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behavior disorder.

Symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies

The mental decline that occurs with this form of dementia is progressive, like it is in people with Alzheimer’s disease. That means symptoms will get worse.

The disorder affects both the thinking part of the brain as well as the part that controls movement.

Common cognitive symptoms include:

  • Changes in thinking or reasoning
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep issues, including changes in wakefulness and acting out dreams
  • Poor regulation of body functions, like blood pressure, pulse and sweating

Common movement-related symptoms include:

  • Stiffness or other gait problems, also called Parkinsonism
  • Slow movement
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Stooped posture

Symptoms can be similar to those of other cognitive disorders, but we have experts at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center who can differentiate between them, make an accurate diagnosis and create a specialized treatment plan.

Diagnosing dementia with Lewy bodies

Our dementia specialists will use different tools to determine of you have this form of the disease versus another type of memory or cognitive disorder.

Those screening and diagnostic techniques include:

  • Mental status testing, including the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), which was developed at Ohio State
  • Neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological assessment
  • Blood and other laboratory tests
  • Imaging studies providing detailed images of the brain including computed tomography (CT); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan; positron emission tomography (PET) scan, including amyloid PET and fludeoxyglucose (FDG) PET, a technique that enables us to diagnose degeneration in the brain
  • Physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Interviews with patient and family members
  • Sleep study

We also have been studying the presence of certain biomarkers and how they can be used as predictors of this disease. That is a key focus of the research happening at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center surrounding dementia with Lewy bodies.

Treatment for dementia with Lewy bodies

Currently, there is no cure for dementia with Lewy bodies and it’s progressive, symptoms do worsen over time.

However, our dementia doctors and experts can prescribe medications that might slow that progression and treat some of your symptoms. For example, cholinesterase inhibitor drugs can help with thinking issues and antidepressants can treat depression, which is common in people living with dementia.

Because we’re an academic medical center, we’re also studying how certain medications might impact Lewy body dementia, so you’ll have access to the latest treatments.

Since this form of dementia involves various medical specialties, you’ll have a team of experts, including memory disorder doctors, movement and sleep specialists, neurologists and physical medicine and rehabilitation providers, dedicated to caring for you at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

We’ll also provide physical and occupational therapists to help you with behavior and environment modification, social workers to support caregivers and mental health professionals to work with the entire family on dealing with dementia.

Learn more about dementia

Learn more about dementia

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