What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

Many people may have heard of Lewy body dementia before, but many don't know the true definition of the progressive disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, those diagnosed with Lewy body dementia have abnormal protein deposits, also called Lewy bodies, in the brain. When these develop in the brain's nerve cells, mental abilities, like thinking and memory, slowly start to decline over time, reports Mayo Clinic. Along with those important mental abilities, one's motor control or movement may begin to mimic symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as tremors.

Lewy body dementia is known to be the second-most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's, per the Mayo Clinic. More than 1 million people in the United States are affected by the disease (via National Institute on Aging). Those who are over the age of 60 and have a family history of dementia or Parkinson's disease may be at greater risk of developing Lewy body dementia. The disease is also known to affect men more than women.

Lewy body dementia symptoms

While the exact cause of Lewy body dementia is still unknown and being researched, scientists have narrowed down specific symptoms of the disease. Because the disease affects one's mental abilities, it causes changes in an affected person's personality, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Lewy body dementia symptoms can range from one's alertness changing to body movement problems to experiencing visual hallucinations. For example, some days a person may stare off into space for hours, while other days they're much more alert. During this time they can appear drowsy and may be harder to understand when speaking.

Lewy body dementia may sound familiar to some because it is what late actor Robin Williams was diagnosed with after his death. Currently, there is no cure for Lewy body dementia. However, Lewy body patients may treat the disease with the same medications used for Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, per the Mayo Clinic. Patients are also encouraged to use occupational and physical therapies to deal with symptoms of Lewy body dementia, per John Hopkins Medicine.