This form of dementia is caused by the build-up of proteins, named Lewy bodies, within the brain. Lewy bodies, named after the physician who discovered them, Friederich H. Lewy, act like the plaques and tangles that develop in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease. Like plaques, Lewy bodies interrupt the normal function of brain cells by making it harder for them to communicate and by leading to cell death. Currently, the cause for the Lewy body protein buildup is not known.
Having an immediate family member who had Lewy body dementia may increase your risk of getting this form of dementia. It often develops in persons who have no family history of the disease, however. Lewy bodies are more likely to develop as an individual ages and most studies indicate the disease is slightly more common in men than women. Individuals may develop Lewy body dementia in combination with Alzheimer’s disease and/or Parkinson’s disease.