The first symptoms of DLB generally include a worsening of mental abilities such as memory and problem-solving. This decline is often severe enough to interfere with the patient's daily life.
Patients may also experience:
- Visual hallucinations — 80 percent of patients see visual hallucinations such as people, animals, and other images that are not observable to others around them.
- Fluctuations in attention — Patients may spend significant time staring into space and may have frequent periods of sleepiness and disorganized speech.
- Cognitive difficulties — Patients with the condition may become more easily confused and may experience memory loss as the disease progresses.
- Impaired regulation of body functions — The areas of the nervous system that regulate blood pressure, sweating and digestion can be affected by the accumulation of Lewy bodies. This can cause dizziness, falls, and digestive issues.
- Movement disorders — Patients may experience movement disorders similar to those associated with Parkinson's disease. This can include muscle rigidity, slow movement, tremors or a shuffling gait.
- Changes in sleeping behaviors — Patients may develop a sleep disorder that causes them to act out their dreams while they are sleeping.
Causes and Risk Factors
DLB is caused by the degeneration of brain tissue. This breakdown happens when the buildup of Lewy bodies interferes with the production and communication of neurotransmitters, chemicals that send information from one nerve to another.
The risk of developing DLB increases with age and is most often seen in patients between the ages of 50-85. Men and patients with a blood relative with DLB may have a slightly higher risk of developing the condition.