Lewy body dementia involves atypical protein deposits in the brain. Diagnosing this condition may involve physical exams, neurological tests, and imaging tests.

Lewy body dementia occurs when protein deposits known as Lewy bodies collect in the brain. These deposits cause chemical changes in the brain, affecting behavior, movement, and thinking.

Doctors can diagnose this condition by monitoring behavioral and physical symptoms. They may also order various tests.

Read on to learn more about how doctors diagnose Lewy body dementia.

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Certain movement changes can be a sign of Lewy body dementia. To test for these changes, a doctor may examine an individual’s balance and muscle stiffness. If they show signs of Lewy body dementia, a doctor can recommend further testing.

A doctor may also recommend activities or tests that evaluate cognitive function, though differentiating the various types of dementia takes time. The test results may show patterns consistent with Lewy body dementia.

In addition to physical tests, neurological tests can help with a diagnosis. Sleep studies can reveal sleep changes common with Lewy body dementia. A neurologist can also closely examine any movement symptoms.

Individuals seeking an evaluation for Lewy body dementia may also need to provide their doctor with a medical history. This helps a doctor learn more about whether an individual is at risk for this type of dementia.

In some cases, underlying conditions or medications can cause symptoms such as those of Lewy body dementia. Taking a medical history can help a doctor rule out these other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

Learn about dementia and genetics.

There is currently no single imaging test for diagnosing Lewy body dementia. The symptoms of this condition may resemble those of other conditions. This can make it difficult to determine whether an individual has Lewy body dementia.

However, imaging tests of the brain can help support a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia or rule out other possible causes. Looking at the brain through MRI or CT scans can help identify brain conditions such as bleeding or tumors. These conditions may cause symptoms similar to those of Lewy body dementia.

Research shows that testing for certain changes in the heart may help diagnose Lewy body dementia in the future.

Individuals experiencing symptoms of Lewy body dementia may need tests for this condition. Symptoms may include:

  • difficulty concentrating or multitasking
  • sleep disturbances
  • anxiety or depression
  • vision difficulties
  • hallucinations
  • changes in movement

People with risk factors for Lewy body dementia may also need to undergo testing. The primary risk factor for this condition is older age. Most individuals who receive a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia are over the age of 50 years.

Another risk factor for Lewy body dementia is having family members with this condition. Individuals who have family members with Lewy body dementia may choose to undergo testing.

Learn more about Lewy body dementia.

After an individual receives a Lewy body dementia diagnosis, their doctor can help them create a treatment plan. Although there is currently no cure for this form of dementia, treatments can help address symptoms.

For example, Lewy body dementia can have a negative effect on mental health. Different forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help boost mental health, while music or art therapy can also reduce feelings of distress or agitation.

People with Lewy body dementia may also experience difficulties with balance, trouble swallowing, or other physical symptoms. Occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists can help individuals manage these symptoms.


The National Institute on Aging states that some medications for Alzheimer’s disease may also be beneficial for those with Lewy body dementia.

Medications a doctor may recommend include:

  • rivastigmine to boost concentration
  • melatonin or other medications to treat sleep difficulties
  • antipsychotic medications to address hallucinations

A person’s doctor can recommend treatment options specific to each individual.

Here are answers to common questions about Lewy body dementia.

What are three signs of Lewy body dementia?

Most people with Lewy body dementia experience symptoms that affect sleep, movement, behavior, and thinking. Three of these symptoms include hallucinations, confusion, and difficulty concentrating.

What is the first symptom most likely to be seen in Lewy body dementia?

The symptoms of Lewy body dementia vary between individuals, so two people may experience very different first symptoms. However, a common early symptom of this type of dementia is visual hallucinations. As many as 80% of people with Lewy body dementia experience this symptom.

Does Lewy body dementia show up on MRI?

An MRI shows the brain’s size and shape but does not provide details about how the brain is functioning. However, a functional MRI can examine changes in how the brain is working. This type of MRI may indicate changes consistent with Lewy body dementia.

Lewy body dementia is a type of dementia where atypical proteins cluster together in the brain. Symptoms of this condition typically involve movement problems, sleep disturbances, behavioral changes, and thinking difficulties.

Analyzing symptoms and taking a full medical history can help doctors diagnose a case of Lewy body dementia. They may also use neurological tests and imaging tests to help make a diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor as soon as they have concerns about Lewy body dementia or if they develop problems with thinking or movement. The doctor can advise which tests they order and what they involve.