Types of Dementia

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Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body Disease was first described by Dr. H.L. Lewy in 1912. It has been called by a number of names such as Lewy Body Dementia and Cortical Lewy Body Disease. The disease is often confused with Alzheimer's Disease or Parkinson's Disease due to overlapping cognitive and physical symptoms. However the medical nature of this dementia is thought to be quite different from these two diseases.

Lewy bodies are abnormal structures found within brain cells scattered throughout parts of the brain. They are usually round and surrounded by a halo, much like a sunflower. These abnormal brain cells can only be identified after death.

Lewy Body Disease is a progressive disorder similar to Alzheimer's Disease, though the rate of decline to death is alarmingly rapid  -- usually about 7 years from the onset of the first symptoms. As this relentless disease advances, the person becomes profoundly demented and immobile.

Causes of Lewy Body Disease

The actual cause is still unknown, though researchers speculate that it may be a result of nerve damage with subsequent degeneration. At present there is a great amount of research being conducted to identify the disease's cause along with the risk factors that may trigger it. At this time, it appears that anyone is a candidate for Lewy Body Disease, which affects males and emales equally.


Since dementia is involved with Lewy Body Disease, Alzheimer's Disease is frequently an early diagnosis. Other people who have Parkinson's Disease may later develop Lewy Body Disease. The key diagnostic symptom is a progressive and relentless decline in cognitive abilities, substantial enough to interfere with normal occupational or social functions.

Group 1 symptoms include:

  • Impaired short-term memory

  • Fluctuating bouts of confusion in early stages

  • Speech block

  • Inability to maintain line of thought

  • Inattention

  • Lack of judgment

  • Sensitivity to some medications, particularly those that act on the nervous system, like sedatives.

Group 2 symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations - can be very detailed and convincing

  • Delusions, often involving persecution

Group 3 symptoms include Parkinson's-like symptoms:

  • Frequent falls

  • Tremors

  • Shuffling gait

  • Rigid posture


Currently there are no specific treatments that are effective for treating Lewy Body Disease. It has been found, however, that drugs used to treat depression may relieve some of the symptoms of the condition.

Treatment also focuses on managing the associated movement disorders such as the Parkinson's-like symptoms and managing the neuropsychiatric disturbances. Certain drugs may be helpful but care is required; drugs that manage the body movement can adversely affect the neuropsychiatric disturbances and visa versa.

Lewy Body Disease Resources

- Lewy Body Dementia Association
- Dementia With Lewy Bodies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Lewy Body Dementia from the Wisconsin Department of Health