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In 1912 Doctor Frederic Lewy was the first to notice abnormal spherical protein deposits in the midbrain and cortex.  These tiny abnormal structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence in the brain leads to the degeneration of brain tissue. In the brain, they disrupt its normal functioning by interrupting the action of important chemical messengers. It is yet to be understood as to why Lewy bodies occur in the brain and how they cause damage. 

Symptoms can include disorientation and hallucinations, as well as problems with planning, reasoning and problem-solving.  The memory may be affected to a lesser degree. This form of dementia shares some characteristics with Parkinson's disease.

Dementia with Lewy bodies appears to equally affect both men and women equally, and like all other types of dementia, it is most noticeable in people over the age of 65.  There are however rare cases in people who are under the age of 65 and who have developed this type of dementia.  Dementia with Lewy Bodies is another progressive form of dementia which follows generally the same progression rates as Alzheimer’s disease, which is normally over a number of years.

Lewy bodies are also found in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease which is a progressive neurological disease that affects movement. People with Parkinson's can sometimes go on to develop dementia that closely resembles Dementia with Lewy bodies.  A person with Dementia with Lewy bodies will usually have some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. They may experience problems with attention and alertness, often have disorientation and experience difficulty with 'executive function', which includes difficulty in planning ahead and coordinating mental activities.  Although memory is often affected, it is typically less so than in Alzheimer's disease.

They may also develop the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, including slowness, muscle stiffness, trembling of the limbs, a tendency to shuffle when walking, loss of facial expression, and changes in the strength and tone of the voice.

There are also symptoms that are particular to dementia with Lewy bodies. In addition to the symptoms above, a person with DLB may: experience detailed and convincing visual hallucinations, often of people or animals; find that their abilities fluctuate daily, or even hourly; fall asleep very easily by day, and have restless, disturbed nights with confusion, nightmares and hallucinations; and faint, fall, or have what's best described as funny turns.  Dementia with Lewy bodies can be difficult to diagnose and is usually done by a specialist. People with Dementia with Lews Bodies are often mistakenly diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia instead.

In the past, strong tranquillisers usually given to people with severe mental health problems, have frequently been given to people suffering from dementia.  It should always be preferable to find other ways of dealing with a person's distress and disturbance that do not involve medication if possible and under no circumstances should neuroleptics be prescribed as a substitute for good quality care.

If tranquillisers are given to people with dementia with Lewy bodies this should only be done with great care and under constant supervision and monitoring as these can be particularly dangerous, bringing on Parkinson-like side-effects, including rigidity, immobility, and an inability to perform tasks or to communicate.  Research has shown that tranquillisers have also been known to cause sudden death in people with Dementia with Lews Bodies.

It is always important to get an accurate diagnosis of dementia, but a proper diagnosis is particularly important in cases of suspected Lewy bodies since people with this have been shown to react badly to certain forms of medication.  Finally, the cause of this type of Dementia is still a mystery although there has been a lot of research carried out.