Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the second most frequent cause of dementia in elderly adults. This is a neurodegenerative disorder that shares many symptoms with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, so it is being questioned whether DLB is a distinct clinical entity on its own or if it is perhaps a variant of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. 

Lewy  Bodies

The above image shows Lewy bodies.

Symptoms

Patients with DLB may have parkinsonian features such as slow or decreased amplitude of movements (akinesia), muscle stiffness (rigidity), tremor, and/or shuffling gait, or features similar to those of Alzheimer's disease such as loss of memory. Typically, patients with DLB have acute confusion, fluctuation of cognitive symptoms, and psychiatric disturbances such as hallucinations, delusions and depression. Visual hallucinations early in the course of the disease in the absence of medication that could explain the hallucinations, increases the likelihood of a DLB diagnosis. 

DLB usually occurs in the late 60s, but may occur in younger people as well, particularly in familial cases. Although diagnosis may be at times challenging, the use of guidelines for the diagnosis of DLB adopted in 1996 helps with identifying the diagnosis. 

Causes

DLB has deposits in certain areas of the brain of a protein called alpha-synuclein that form structures called Lewy bodies that are also linked to Parkinson's disease. 

Treatment

DLB is a slowly progressive condition for which there is no cure, but the search for specific therapies is ongoing. Treatment is symptomatic, often involving the use of medication to control the parkinsonian, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms. However, patients should be aware that antiparkinsonian medication that may help to reduce tremor and slowness of movements may actually worsen the psychiatric symptoms (hallucinations and delusions). Similarly, medications prescribed for the psychiatric symptoms may worsen the motor problems, and some of the neuroleptics are contraindicated in DLB. In general atypical neuroleptics are more successful than older drugs such as haloperidol.

Pillbox

Research

Our current research focuses on learning how to better diagnose, treat, and prevent this disease. The overall goal is to find out what causes this disease, so we can focus on preventing and curing rather than only treating its symptoms.

What We Offer

Our Movement Disorder Center is part of the UC San Diego Health System - the only health system in San Diego. As an academic health system, we can offer the best diagnostic, therapeutic, palliative and supportive care to patients with movement disorders and related neurodegenerative diseases. We provide a patient-centered approach to care that is designed to address each individual's unique needs, as well as educational programs, local resources and support groups.

The Movement Disorder Center at UC San Diego takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and research. Our team consists of movement disorder specialists, a neurosurgeon, neuropsychologists, a nurse practitioner, clinical team, and physical, speech and occupational therapists. Meet our team.

Our Neurological Institute is a research powerhouse. We offer patients access to groundbreaking treatments, therapies and diagnostic techniques. See our research.

We Can Help You Move Ahead

Contact us for an appointment or information to find out how our state-of-the-art program can help you.

New patients: 800-926-8273, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Existing UC San Diego Health System patients: 858-657-8540