Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia.

What is dementia with Lewy bodies?

The word dementia is used to describe a group of symptoms – these include memory loss, confusion, mood changes and difficulty with day-to-day tasks. There can be a number of different causes of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common cause.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the third most common type of dementia. For every 100 people with dementia, around 10-15 of them will have DLB. This means roughly 100,000 people in the UK are likely to have this form of dementia. Some people can show features of both Alzheimer’s and DLB; this is called mixed dementia.

DLB is caused by small round clumps of protein that build up inside nerve cells in the brain. One of these proteins is called alpha-synuclein and the clumps it forms are called Lewy bodies. The protein clumps damage the way nerve cells work and communicate.

In DLB, the nerve cells that are affected by Lewy bodies are in areas of the brain that control thinking, memory and movement. Lewy bodies are also responsible for the damage that causes movement problems in Parkinson’s disease.

People with DLB can also show some changes in the brain that are typical of Alzheimer’s. This sometimes makes it hard to tell the difference between the two diseases.

This information was updated in January 2018 and is due for review in January 2020. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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