Symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies 

The symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies usually develop gradually and become more severe over the course of a few years.

Like other forms of dementia, the condition causes problems with:

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

People with dementia with Lewy bodies may also have other symptoms that can help distinguish it from other types of dementia, such as:

  • extreme swings between alertness and confusion or drowsiness, which may happen unexpectedly and change from hour to hour or day to day
  • slow movement, stiff limbs, and tremors (as seen in Parkinson's disease), which cause shuffling when walking
  • seeing or hearing things that aren't real (hallucinations), which can range from pleasant to distressing
  • fainting, unsteadiness, and falls 
  • sleep disturbances, which can cause talking in your sleep or acting out dreams
  • loss of facial expression
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • depression 

These symptoms can make daily activities very difficult and can lead to further health problems, such as injuries from falls, and chest infections caused by accidentally inhaling food instead of swallowing it. 

Seeking medical advice

If you think you may have early symptoms of dementia, it's a good idea to see your GP. If you're worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.

Symptoms of dementia can have a number of different causes. Your GP will be able to carry out some simple checks to try to find out what the cause may be, and they can refer you to a specialist for further tests if necessary.
Read more about diagnosing dementia with Lewy bodies.

Page last reviewed: 22/01/2015

Next review due: 22/01/2017