Lewy Body Disease
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Lewy Body Disease

(Lewy Body Dementia; Dementia with Lewy Bodies)

En Español (Spanish Version)


Dementia is the progressive loss of memory and various other mental functions, including the ability to learn, reason, and judge. Lewy body disease is caused by the build up of Lewy bodies (abnormal protein deposits) inside brain cells that control certain aspects of memory and motor control. It is the second most common type of progressive dementia.

Brain Cells


© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


It is not clear exactly what causes the build up of Lewy bodies in the brain, but Lewy body disease is linked to Parkinson's disease , multiple system atrophy , and other disorders.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors may increase your risk of developing Lewy body disease:

  • Gender: male
  • Age: 53-83 years
  • Family history of Lewy body disease


Lewy body disease is characterized by:

  • Fluctuations in alertness and attention
    • Frequent drowsiness
    • Lethargy
    • Staring into space
    • Disorganized speech
    • Insomnia
  • Recurrent visual hallucinations
  • Poor regulation of body temperature and blood pressure
  • Obsessive/compulsive behaviors
  • Forgetfulness
  • Parkinsonian motor symptoms
    • Rigidity
    • Loss of spontaneous movement
  • REM behavior disorder


The only way to diagnose Lewy body disease conclusively is through an autopsy. But a doctor can perform tests to narrow the cause of dementia. He or she will ask about symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Memory, language, and other tests
  • Formal Neuro-psychologic testing
  • Patient and family interviews
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • Blood tests


While there is no cure for Lewy body disease, there are treatments that can control its symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


Medications such as donepezil and rivastigmine can help with many of the symptoms of Lewy body disease. However, donepezil and rivastigmine may worsen motor symptoms. Levodopa can be used to help control rigidity and loss of spontaneous movement. In addition, some people benefit from antidepressants and anticonvulsants.

Patients with Lewy body disease may be particularly sensitive to medications known as neuroleptics and may develop adverse events with these medications.

Other Treatments

Physical therapy, massage, exercise, music, and aromatherapy may benefit some people with this condition.


There is no known direct prevention against Lewy body disease.


Lewy Body Dementia Association

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Alzheimer Society

Canadian Stroke Network


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Last reviewed September 2008 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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