Some of the less common symptoms of Lewy body dementia (LBD) can cause significant concerns for the person with the disease, as well as his caregivers.
Knowing the possible symptoms of LBD can help alleviate stress and provide a better treatment plan when they do develop.
First, we’ll review the more typical symptoms of LBD and then we’ll identify the less common symptoms.
More Common Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease where memory challenges are one of the hallmark features, LBD more commonly presents with difficulties in attention and executive functioning.
Hallucinations and Delusions
Visual hallucinations are the most common type of hallucinations in LBD, and can often be one of the earlier symptoms of the disease. Other kinds of hallucinations, such as auditory, in addition to delusions, are also common in LBD.
Symptoms in Lewy body dementia may involve difficulty moving the legs, a feeling of stiffness in the limbs and Parkinson’s disease-like conditions such as stooped posture, a lack of facial expression and a change in walking pace and gait (how the legs function and walk).
Fluctuations in Cognitive Ability
This is one of the classic symptoms of LBD—the differences in functioning from day to day or even from minute to minute. One day he might recognize you and greet you by name; the next day, you may appear only vaguely familiar to him.
Hallucinations are common in LBD; however, some of the medicines that are classified as antipsychotic medications– typically prescribed to treat hallucinations– can trigger severe and sometimes life-threatening reactions in people who have LBD.
According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, approximately 25-50% of people with LBD may respond negatively to these medicines. Thus, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are both critically important in LBD.
Less Common Symptoms of LBD
Episodes of Fainting or Loss of Consciousness
Have you decided your loved one is playing possum when he won’t get up or respond in the morning? While that’s certainly possible, it’s also possible that his Lewy body dementia is causing this change in ability to respond.
Recently, a friend shared that she had received a call that her loved one seemed almost unconscious, and this lasted almost all day long.
She was quite concerned because there was no obvious reason such as an illness or infection. When learning that this was likely related to his LBD, she was reassured that she wasn’t missing another cause for this change in his condition and relieved when it resolved on its own.
Sometimes, people with LBD experience changes in how they see or interpret their surroundings. Things may appear distorted, they may have difficulty in judging distance or location of objects or they may get disoriented and lost easily in familiar locations.
This is one of the very early symptoms that can indicate LBD. REM sleep disorder is when people physically act out their dreams. REM sleep disorder is considered a significant risk factor for LBD.
Autonomic System Disorders
Autonomic dysfunctions can include significant changes in blood pressure, heart issues, erectile dysfunction, dizziness, falls, incontinence, temperature regulations, and swallowing difficulties.
For example, one reason people with LBD may fall more frequently is a drop in blood pressure when they go from a sitting to a standing position.
This is called orthostatic hypotension and it can be helped by being aware of this potential and asking the person with LBD to sit on the edge of the bed for a few seconds before slowly and cautiously rising to a standing position.
Experts estimate that about 17% of people with LBD experience Capgras syndrome, a condition where there believe that their caregiver or family member is an imposter. This symptom, along with other delusions, can be a challenging one for both the person with LBD and their loved ones.
A Word from Verywell
When you’re coping with Lewy body dementia, it can be very helpful to educate yourself on the various symptoms that go along with the disease.
This can help prepare you ahead of time and also reduce worries when new symptoms develop.
Knowledge of these less common symptoms could also help point to a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia if there’s a question about what’s causing your challenges in functioning and you have not yet been diagnosed.