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Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) causes problems with mental abilities and a number of other difficulties.

The symptoms tend to come on gradually and get slowly worse over several years, although treatment can help.

As with other types of dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies typically causes problems with:

  • thinking speed
  • understanding
  • judgement
  • visual perception
  • language
  • memory (but significant memory loss may not occur until later on)

These problems may be constant but typically tend to come and go.

There are also other symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies that can help distinguish it from other types of dementia, such as:

  • seeing or sometimes hearing things that are not there (hallucinations) – these can range from pleasant to distressing
  • marked swings between alertness and confusion or sleepiness – this can happen unexpectedly and change over minutes or hours
  • slow movement, stiff limbs, tremors (uncontrollable shaking) and shuffling when walking – similar to Parkinson's disease
  • fainting, unsteadiness and falls
  • disturbed sleep – this could be talking in sleep, acting out dreams or sleepiness during the day
  • difficulty swallowing
  • depression

Daily activities become increasingly difficult and there may be further health problems, such as an injury after a fall or a chest infection caused by accidentally inhaling food.

See a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia, especially if you're over 65 years of age.

If you're worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest that you go with them.

The GP can do some simple checks to try to find out the cause of your symptoms and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Read more about:

Getting a dementia diagnosis

Tests used to diagnose dementia

Advice if you're worried someone else could have dementia