About Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein that form within nerve cells, affecting their function. Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Lewy bodies also cause Parkinson’s disease (PD), and the order that symptoms develop distinguishes between dementia with Lewy bodies and dementia due to Parkinson’s disease.
Identifying LBD can be challenging because many LBD symptoms overlap with other conditions. For example, people with LBD can be misdiagnosed with a psychiatric illness due to the prominent visual hallucinations that are a hallmark of this illness.
Types of Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia is classified by the timing of symptom onset.
Types of Lewy body dementia include:
- Dementia with Lewy bodies: Dementia in which thinking and memory changes occur before or around the same time as movement problems such as tremor and problems with walking
- Parkinson’s disease dementia: Dementia in which movement symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are present for many years before cognitive and behavioral changes occur.
Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia
Symptoms of LBD and their severity can vary person to person.
Symptoms of Lewy body dementia may include:
- Difficulty with attention and planning
- Fluctuating confusion throughout the day
- Impaired reasoning, including visual and spatial reasoning
- Parkinsonism (motor difficulties trouble with walking and slow movement)
- Sleep difficulty (acting out dreams, vivid dreaming)
- Visual hallucinations
Risk Factors for Lewy Body Dementia
Researchers are still working to determine the exact cause of LBD, but certain people are known to be at higher risk for the condition.
Risk factors for Lewy body dementia may include:
- Age: LBD is most common in patients over 50
- Family history: In some cases, people with a family history of LBD are at higher risk for the condition
Treating Lewy Body Dementia at UT Health Austin
While there’s no cure for Lewy body dementia, symptoms can be managed with medications that are used for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Some patients are prescribed anti-psychotic medications, though it is very important to talk with a physician or psychiatrist before taking these drugs for LBD symptoms, and they should be used with extreme caution given they are particularly risky for the elderly and those with LBD.
Our clinic uses an interprofessional approach, which means our patients have contact with multiple team members coming from multiple specialties. We discuss each patient as a team to identify the diagnosis and to develop a tailored treatment plan specific to your needs. Whatever your needs are, our team is here to listen and work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.
Care Team Approach
UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines caring for you in one place to avoid having to schedule multiple appointments with providers at locations all over the city. The Comprehensive Memory Center care team includes neurologists, a geriatric psychiatrist, neuropsychologists, nurses, a speech-language pathologist, social workers, and more who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you.
We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with referring physicians and other partners in the community to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.