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An introduction to Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is caused by deposits of protein appearing in nerve cells in the brain. Researchers do not have a full understanding of why Lewy bodies appear, or exactly how they contribute to dementia.

DLB and Parkinson’s disease are two of several diseases caused by Lewy bodies that affect the brain and nervous system and get worse over time. A person with Parkinson’s disease is at high risk of going on to develop dementia (Parkinson’s disease dementia) as their condition progresses. Dementia may be more likely in a person who has developed Parkinson’s later in life or who has been living with it for several years.

Typical symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include:

 • Problems with attention and alertness are very common. Someone with DLB may stare into space for a long time or have periods when their speech is disorganised

• People may also have difficulties judging distances and seeing objects in three dimensions

• Difficulties with planning, organising and decision-making

• Visual hallucinations also occur frequently in people with DLB, often in the early stages of the condition

• Auditory hallucinations - can happen but are less common

• Movement difficulties including slow and stiff movements with blank facial expression, sometimes with stooped posture, increasing the risk of falls

• Sleep disturbance, falling asleep in the daytime and having nightmares

Hallucinations and visual misperceptions partly explain why most people with DLB have delusions (persistently thinking things that are not true) at some stage. In the later stages of DLB, many people have problems with speech and swallowing, leading to chest infections or risk of choking. Eventually, someone with DLB is likely to need nursing care.

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