NINDS Dementia With Lewy Bodies Information Page: NINDS


Article title: NINDS Dementia With Lewy Bodies Information Page: NINDS
Conditions: Dementia With Lewy Bodies
What is Dementia With Lewy Bodies?
Dementia with Lewy bodies, the second most frequent cause of dementia in elderly adults, is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with abnormal structures (Lewy bodies) found in certain areas of the brain. Because these structures and many of the symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies are associated with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, researchers do not yet understand whether dementia with Lewy bodies is a distinct clinical entity or perhaps a variant of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Symptoms can range from traditional parkinsonian effects, such as loss of spontaneous movement (bradykinesia), rigidity (muscles feel stiff and resist movement), tremor, and shuffling gait, to effects similar to those of Alzheimer's disease, such as acute confusion, loss of memory, and loss of, or fluctuating, cognition. Visual hallucinations may be one of the first symptoms noted, and patients may suffer from other psychiatric disturbances such as delusions and depression. Onset of the disorder usually occurs in older adults, although younger people can be affected as well. In 1996 scientists published guidelines for the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies (McKeith IG, et al, Neurology, vol 47, pp 1113-1114, Nov 1996).

Is there any treatment?
Scientists continue to search for a specific course of therapy for people with dementia with Lewy bodies. Treatment is symptomatic, often involving the use of medication to control the parkinsonian and psychiatric symptoms. However, patients should be aware that antiparkinsonian medication that may help to reduce tremor and loss of muscle movement may actually worsen such symptoms as hallucinations and delusions. Similarly, neuroleptic drugs prescribed for psychiatric symptoms may in fact markedly worsen the movement symptoms. In general atypical antipsychotic medications are more successful than older drugs such as haloperidol.

What is the prognosis?
Dementia with Lewy bodies is a slowly progressive condition for which there is no cure.

What research is being done?
NINDS conducts and supports research on dementing disorders, including dementia with Lewy bodies, to learn more about diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Research efforts also include basic investigations of Lewy bodies, in an effort to understand the biological consequences of Lewy body formation and the mechanisms of disease progression. Knowledge gained by such basic research provides the necessary foundation for future clinical research.


Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250
Tel: 301-495-3311 800-438-4380
Fax: 301-495-3334

Alzheimer's Association
919 North Michigan Avenue
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60611-1676
Tel: 312-335-8700 800-272-3900
Fax: 312-335-1110

Family Caregiver Alliance
690 Market Street
Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel: 415-434-3388 800-445-8106
Fax: 415-434-3508

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Provided by:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

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