What Is Lewy Body Dementia?

by | Feb 15, 2018 | Dementia

Lewy body is a little-known disease yet it is the second leading cause of dementia in the older adults after Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is often thought to be the second leading cause. But according to the National Institute of Health DLB is more common than pure vascular dementia. However, it is not more common than vascular dementia combines with another type of dementia.

Neighboring Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body disease is the second leading cause of frequency dementia in the elderly. Indeed, it constitutes from 10 to 20% of all cases of neurodegenerative pathologies of this type.

Lewy body dementia is characterized by:

The accumulation of abnormal deposits of the protein called alpha-synuclein;
These deposits are what are called “Lewy bodies,” from inside the neurons.
The causes of the pathology remain unknown. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease in which brain cells die definitively, in Lewy body dementia:

• Only 15% of neurons die; the others have problems of operation.

Lewy body dementia can:

• Develop alone, or appear in association with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Also, statistics show that Lewy body dementia is significantly more common in men than women.

Robin Williams Had Lewy Bodies

On  August 11, 2014, Robin Williams, a beloved actor and comedian took his own life. The world was shocked. Why?? How could this happen? On further examination of his brain during autopsy, it was discovered that Williams suffered from Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

The cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation. ( He hanged himself) However his wife, Susan says Lewy Bodies was the “terrorist inside of his brain” that caused him to take his life. As far as Susan is concerned DLB is to blame.

Robin Williams was previously diagnosed as having Parkinson’s Disease. Some of the symptoms as similar. Balance and coordination problems, a hunched posture and rigid muscles are all common in both diseases.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy bodies, named after the doctor who discovered them in 1912, are abnormal clumps of proteins found in nerve cells. The presence of these agglomerates is a sign of a degenerative disease of the nervous system. This neurological disease can develop itself alone or in combination with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. If similar symptoms are found, Lewy body disease or dementia is distinguished by the speed with which it degrades the patient’s mental faculties.

How to detect this disease?

Lewy Body Dementia

People suffering from Lewy body dementia have symptoms such as memory loss, hallucinations, attention disorders, vivid and disturbing dreams, etc. It also affects their daily activities because patients have various disorders such as difficulty to move or even to stand up, some patients are victims of frequent falls. Sometimes patients have tremors like people with Parkinson’s disease, although this is quite rare. On the other hand, they present other symptoms of this disease such as the difficulty of movement and slowness but also a lack of expression on the face. Finally, sleep can be disturbed by this disease.

What are the symptoms of Lewy body dementia?

Lewy body dementia particularly affects the brain areas responsible for movement and thought. The characteristic signs of this pathology strongly resemble the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s syndrome:

• Spatiotemporal disorientation, disorders of attention, memory loss, the rigidity of the muscles.
Then more serious symptoms appear:

• Auditory or visual hallucinations (in four out of five patients),
• Depression and anxiety leading to aggressive behavior.

Similar to Alzheimer’s Yet Different

Lewy body dementia has in common with Alzheimer’s disease a progressive degeneration of memory, language, judgment and other intellectual exercises, such as calculus. However, in DLB the disease progresses more rapidly. Also, memory loss may only occur in advanced stages of the disease. The diagnosis is often difficult to define; it is pronounced by eliminating the other possible reasons for the symptoms.

Therefore, keeping the patient at home requires the installation of home help 24 hours a day, which remains complicated and expensive. The reception in a facility is, therefore, the solution adopted by a growing number of families in this form of dementia.

What to do if a loved one has these symptoms?

Lewy Body dementia
If a loved one has these types of symptoms, it is essential to consult a professional quickly. Your general practitioner will guide you in geriatrics or neurology to perform the necessary tests to find out if your relative is suffering from Lewy body dementia. Cerebral MRI, PET-Scan and other tests will be shown. Unfortunately, there is no treatment to treat people suffering from this disease; only the symptoms can be alleviated by medication but also by a physiotherapist, etc.

How to help loved ones with this disorder?
Relatives can only be present and give all the necessary attention to the patient. Because of the nature of this disease, it is important that someone be present to assist at all times.


Family caregivers will need respite care from time to time. Caring for someone with Lewy body disease can be exhausting. Whenever possible, home support is always preferred. Keeping someone in their own environment may help to alleviate some of the symptoms. If that is not possible, the solution will certainly be to place your loved one in a  Memory care facility with trained caregivers who understand this disease.

How to Avoid Lewy Bodies

Prevention they say is better than intervention.  However, there is still much we do not know about this particular type of dementia.  Following the Alzheimer’s Associations, recommendation for lifestyle changes is a smart first step.

Avoid food triggers

Heart and Brain Health Diet

Eliminating most processed foods may help to keep your brain healthy. Try to follow a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the Mind Diet.

Sugar and sweeteners

The evidence is mounting on the connection between Type2 Diabetes and Dementia. The Alzheimers Association has a report you can read here.

While a lot of people find it hard to eliminate sugar from their diet if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic it is important to find a way. Stevia is a popular natural sweetener you may want to try.


There are a lot of articles suggesting that you should avoid gluten if suffering from Lewy Body Dementia. At this time there is just not enough evidence to suggest that it can help. However, if you want to try a gluten-free diet for a while it probably wouldn’t hurt. And it’s easy to do. Most groceries carry a lot of gluten-free products. Furthermore, if you stick to eating mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and meats you will not be eating gluten anyway.


Exercise is always on the top of the list of must-do lifestyle changes. Staying physically fit is not only good for you body but also for your mind. Numerous studies and not indicating that regular exercise could help delay the onset of dementia. And a few more good years is worth a walk in the park!

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