What Are the 7 Stages of Lewy Body Dementia?

NIH says Lewy Body Dementia affects more than 1 million people in the United States. Lewy Body Dementia or LBD get worse over time and it tends to occur in people over 50 and is more common in men than women. Lewy Body Dementia is very challenging to diagnose because LBD resembles the other closely similar neurological disorders Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A family history of LBD or Parkinson’s disease also increases the risk of Lewy Body Dementia. LBD can occur alone or with other brain disorders. This disease can last upto 5 to 8 years from the time of diagnosis to death but it also can range from 2 to 20 years, it depends on how quickly symptoms develop because it varies from person to person. Lewy body dementia has different stages and each stage has different symptoms from minor to severe. So, here in this article we are going to address the query of what are the 7 stages of lewy body dementia and how can we differentiate their symptoms.

What is Dementia?

Before knowing about what are the 7 stages of lewy body dementia first let’s understand what dementia is?

Dementia is an umbrella term of various progressive neurological disorders like memory loss, language problem, thinking ability which affects our daily activities. Dementia gets worse over time and it mainly affects the older people. WHO highlighted in their study that currently worldwide more than 55 million people are suffering from dementia and every year nearly 10 million new cases are adding to this list. Dementia is now the 7th leading cause of death.

Dementia has physical, physiological and social impacts for those who are suffering from this and this can create problems for your career and your family.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Clumps of abnormal protein particles are called Lewy bodies. Lewy body dementia is the most common type of Dementia after Alzheimer’s. In this condition protein deposits called lewy bodies, abnormally develop in nerve cells in the brain that affect the brain’s abilities such as; thinking, memory, movement etc. This leads to cognitive and motor problems. People suffering from lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations and they also may experience Parkinson’s disease alongside.

What Are The Causes of Lewy Body Dementia?

When protein particles called Lewy bodies abnormally develop in brain cells they affect the memory power and muscle movement and cause Lewy Body Dementia. The reason behind this protein build up in the brain cell is still unknown. Lewy body dementia can happen to people who have family history or with no family history of this disease.

According to NIA variants in 3 genes – APOE, GBA and SNCA can increase the risk of LBD but in most cases the cause is still unknown.

Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia

All of the 7 stages of lewy body dementia symptoms are nearly common like other two neurological disorders; Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease so, the chances are high to get misdiagnosed.

Let’s understand the common symptoms of LBD are.

Visual Hallucinations

Seeing things which are not there are called hallucinations.
80% people with Lewy Body Dementia often face visual hallucinations at their early stage.

Movement Disorders

Slowed movement, rigidity or stiffness in muscle, tremors etc. These symptoms vary from person to person. Some people may not experience these movement issues for several years while others with LBD may experience these issues at their early stage. Other movement issues like loss of balance, shuffling walk and frequent falls can also be noticed.

Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorder is common among people with LBD, especially the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder. In this condition people unknowingly physically act out their dreams while asleep. People with REM may enact some violent activities such as scream, punch, kick and yell that they see in their dream. Those people often have difficulty in separating their dreams from reality. They believe things they see while dreaming. Other sleeping disorders such as excessive drowsiness in day time, changes in sleep pattern and Insomnia can also be found in people with LBD.

Cognitive Problems

Fluctuating cognitive function is a specific symptom of LBD and this can be changed from day to day. Cognitive problems may include memory loss, confusion, visual spatial problems like judging distance and depth or misidentifying objects etc.

Effects on Autonomic Nervous System

Autonomic Nervous System or ANS controls involuntary body functions like heart rate, breathing, digestion, blood pressure. People with Lewy body dementia can face difficulties with their Autonomic Nervous System. They may experience dizziness, fainting, changes in body temperature, sensitivity to heat and cold etc.

Change in Mental Health

People suffering from Lewy Body Dementia may develop some mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, lack of interest, dilution and other changes in mental health.

What Are the 7 Stages of Lewy Body Dementia?

Stage 1

This is the early stage of LBD. At this stage most of the people don’t experience any kind of symptom hence it often stays entirely undetected. Minor memory problems, mood swings, and visual hallucinations can happen but these don’t cause any loss of cognitive abilities. It’s hard to diagnose LBD at its 1st stage because the affected person seems normal to his/her family. Only CT scan or MRI at this stage can diagnose LBD but most of the people diagnosed at the later stage as they wait for more prominent symptoms. Early diagnosis cannot cure Lewy Body Dementia entirely but it can help to slow down the progression.

Stage 2

If you have LBD then you start noting its mild symptoms at this stage such as mild forgetfulness, trouble remembering recent events, start feeling confused and may face difficulty to understand multiple instructions at a time or difficulty in multitasking. At this stage people mostly face difficulty with tasks which take a lot of concentration like solving crossword puzzles or remembering things etc. Mainly cognitive abilities begin to decline at this stage. People at this stage usually can continue with their daily work.

Stage 3

At stage 3 LBD symptoms become more visible. People experience more cognitive decline like forgetfulness. Their family members may experience changes in behavior like increased anxiety, depression and apathy. Understanding the problem and support by loved ones are more required at this stage as they may need assistance to perform their daily activity. With the right care people with stage 3 LBD can lead their normal life.

Stage 4

This is the stage where Lewy Body Dementia is diagnosed for most of the people. Doctors identify this by taking some neurological tests. Symptoms are moderate at this stage but more prominent from stage 3. Symptoms include forgetfulness, difficulties in problem solving, sleep disorder and fluctuating cognition. Day to day activity like bathing, dressing becomes difficult to perform at this stage for a patient. At this stage symptoms become more life disruptive so it is very important to provide a supportive environment and necessary resources to the patient so that they can come back to their normal life.

Stage 5

Lewy Body Dementia stage 5 is considered as a moderately severe stage. At this stage people face difficulty to communicate and experience disorientation, confusion and difficulty in problem solving. When you are into LBD stage 5 you start forgetting basic details such as phone number or address. You may also experience increased hallucination, delusion with inappropriate and unpredictable behavior. So people with LBD stage 5 require assistance to perform their daily activity.

Stage 6

Lewy body dementia stage 6 is the most severe stage. People at this stage are mostly in bedridden condition and lose their ability to speak. At this stage people need a high level of support to live comfortably. At stage 6 people can only recall their memory of early life, they may not recognize their family members even. Inability to control bladder or bowel function is common at this stage. People can show various behavioral changes such as agitation, aggression and this can last upto 2.5 years on an average.

Stage 7

At the final stage, symptoms are most severe and this can last upto 1.5 to 2.5 years. People lose their ability to speak and walk at this stage, face difficulty to do basic activities. Patient totally becomes dependent on caregivers. The patient completely loses his/her memory. At stage 7 lewy body dementia people require 24/7 assistance to live their life.

Stages of Lewy Body Dementia Progression

Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease which mostly starts showing its symptoms after aging around 50 years and gradually progresses through 7 stages. As LBD shares the same symptoms with other diseases so it can be misdiagnosed. Its similar kind of pattern progression makes it difficult to identify. However, progression of Lewy Body Dementia can vary from person to person. Some progress really fast on the other side some progress slowly. Early diagnosis can slow down the progression so, if your loved ones are showing memory issues with cognitive decline then consult with your doctor immediately.

Difference between Lewy Body Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Lewy Body DementiaAlzheimer’s
Men have a higher chance of developingWomen have a higher chance of developing
Median survival age is 79 year oldMedian survival age is 85 year old
Second most common type of DementiaMost common type of Dementia
Caused by Lewy body protein build up in brainCaused by amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain

Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

There is no single test that can diagnose Lewy Body Dementia with 100% accuracy. Doctors follow some strategies to diagnose LBD and to find out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.

Doctors will ask you about your detailed medical and family history. They may also ask your family members about your symptoms and usual behavior.

Further, your doctor can perform some neurological tests to check the thinking ability, word finding and attention.

Doctors also recommend sleep studies to check the REM sleep behavior disorder which is also one of the LBD symptoms. For this doctor may ask the patient to sleep in the lab for a night. During this test sensors will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, breathing patterns, hand and leg movement etc.

Imaging tests like CT scan, MRI usually don’t help to diagnose Lewy body dementia but it can find the other causes like bleeding in the brain, tremors which show similar symptoms.

Treatment of Lewy Body Dementia

There is no treatment which can completely cure Lewy Body Dementia but after diagnosis doctors can prescribe some medicine to slow down the progression. Alongside, people suffering from lewy body dementia can go for therapies such as Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Speech therapy, Individual and family psychotherapies etc. to improve their quality of life. There are a few ways through which the family members can help the patient to cope with the condition. By adopting these methods the family members of the patients can help the patient to feel good.

  • Always maintain eye contact while speaking with the patient and speak slowly in simple words.
  • Don’t expect a quick response from the patient.
  • Give 1 instruction at a time.
  • Try to communicate with patients by gestures and cues.
  • Encourage the patient to exercise
  • Encourage the patient to participate in games, crossword puzzle and other activities which involve thinking
  • Encourage the patient to participate in creative tasks such as painting, singing etc.
  • Create calming bedtime rituals.

Can Lewy Body Dementia be Prevented?

There is nothing which can prevent Lewy Body Dementia however, its symptoms can be reduced or slowed down with the help of treatments.


Now we all know about what are the 7 stages of lewy body dementia, its symptoms and causes. Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease it gets worse over time so early diagnosis of lewy body dementia allows you and your family to plan and prepare for it. Take your family along with you and discuss with your health care provider and he/she will definitely educate you on how to reduce its symptoms. Since, the Lewy Body Dementia is a non-curable disease hence, early diagnosis can slow down the progression. In each stage support and care to the patient are highly required. The patient’s mental strength also matters here to fight with the condition and come back to normal life.

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