Lewy Body Disease
Lewy body disease is a related condition to Parkinson’s disease. These conditions involve the accumulation of an abnormal protein in brain cells. These deposits are called “Lewy bodies.”
Most people with Parkinson’s disease have only physical symptoms, such as tremor (shaking), stiffness, slow walking, and difficulty with balance. Older Parkinson’s patients may eventually develop cognitive impairment significant enough to qualify as dementia.
In Lewy body disease, the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin around the same time as the cognitive symptoms. There is also a tendency for the confusion to wax and wane (“good days and bad days”) and for the person to experience visual hallucinations.
How common is Lewy body disease?
Lewy body disease affects approximately 1.4 million people in the United States. It is also commonly underdiagnosed because its symptoms are very similar to both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Who gets Lewy body disease?
Lewy body disease usually begins between the ages of 50 and 85. It affects men slightly more than women. People who have a parent or sibling with Lewy body disease might have a greater risk than someone without a family history.
How is Lewy body disease diagnosed?
Doctors usually diagnose Lewy body disease by the combination of physical signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and the mental symptoms of Lewy body disease.
Symptoms of Lewy body disease include:
- Slow thinking
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with learning and abstract thinking
- Fluctuating severity of symptoms
- Visual hallucinations
- Sensitivity to some medications
- Physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Please seek the help of a licensed medical professional if you are concerned about your health, and dial 9-1-1 if you are experiencing an emergency.
The cognitive symptoms of Lewy body disease often respond to cholinesterase inhibitors (for example, donepezil (Aricept®), galantamine (Razadyne®), rivastigmine (Exelon®).
- Date of last review: October 4, 2018