What Does the Life Expectancy Look Like for Lewy Body Dementia?

Medically Reviewed By Nancy Hammond, M.D.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) progressively impacts your functions, memory, and movements. Life expectancy for someone with the condition can depend on age, overall health, and how far the condition has advanced. This article discusses the life expectancy range for a person with Lewy body dementia (LBD) and what to expect as it progresses. 

What is the life expectancy for someone with Lewy body dementia?

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Sources vary on the life expectancy range for LBD: 

A healthcare professional can provide a personalized answer for your specific case. They will factor in your overall health, age, and how far the disease has progressed. 

Still, no one can determine exactly how many years you will live. You could surpass these averages. 

What does the progression of Lewy body dementia look like? 

Most people with LBD begin experiencing symptoms between 50–85 years old. Symptoms are usually mild at first and progress over a few years.

During the initial stages of LBD, a person may be able to function as usual or close to usual. But as symptoms worsen, caregiver assistance may be needed.

REM sleep behavior disorder can be one of the earliest signs of this disorder, appearing years before any other symptom. 

Other symptoms of LBD include: 

Researchers note Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that people with LBD often die after experiencing a combination of complications from the disorder, such as: 

  • cardiac issues
  • medication side effects
  • pneumonia 
  • swallowing issues 
  • immobility 
  • falls 
  • depression that leads to suicide 

Learn more about what causes LBD.

What are the treatments for Lewy body dementia? 

There are currently no treatments to slow the progression of LBD or extend life expectancy. Also, researchers have not yet identified Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source any lifestyle factors that can affect a person’s likelihood of developing LBD. Age is currently the biggest known risk factor. 

However, some medications and therapies may lessen the severity of symptoms.  

Medications for Lewy body dementia

Rivastigmine (Exelon) is the only on-label medication for LBD, meaning it has been approved to treat the condition. Doctors may also use off-label medications, which are remedies to treat a condition that have not been approved for that use. Off-label medications for LBD can include: 

  • cholinesterase inhibitors such as galantamine (Razadyne) and donepezil (Aricept) for cognitive symptoms 
  • Carbidopa-Levodopa (Atamet) for movement symptoms 
  • atypical antipsychotics for hallucinations 
  • clonazepam (Klonopin) or melatonin for REM sleep behavior disorder 
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression 

Researchers are also studying memantine (Axura) in clinical trials. The medication may show promise Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in helping people in the early stages of the disease. 

Therapies for Lewy body dementia

Other therapies may also ease LBD symptoms: 

People with LBD can also join an in-person or online support group. Once they reach the late stages of LBD, hospice care can provide them comfort and support for their family. 

Learn more about treatments for LBD.

Other frequently asked questions

Nancy Hammond, M.D., has reviewed the answers to these common questions about LBD.

How quickly does Lewy body dementia progress?

LBD disease progression varies. Some people may advance to the late stages of the condition and die within a few years after their diagnosis. Others may live much longer.

What causes death from Lewy body dementia?

People with LBD usually die from complications related to the disease, such as pneumonia, difficulty swallowing, or immobility.

Summary

The life expectancy for someone with LBD varies, but expert sources agree it’s between 5-8 years after diagnosis.

Your overall health and age impact your life expectancy with LBD. Some people may die from LBD complications 2 years after diagnosis. Another in the early stages without complications may survive for 20 years.

Currently, no medications or therapies can slow disease progression and increase the life expectancy of someone with LBD. However, following a doctor-prescribed treatment plan may help improve the quality of life.

Talk with your doctor about ways to manage LBD.

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  1. Dementia with Lewy bodies. (2021). https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/dementia-with-lewy-bodies/
  2. Haider, A., et al. (2022). Lewy body dementia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482441/
  3. What is Lewy body dementia? (n.d.). https://www.alzheimers.gov/alzheimers-dementias/lewy-body-dementia
  4. What is Lewy body dementia? Causes, symptoms, and treatments. (2021). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-lewy-body-dementia-causes-symptoms-and-treatments

Medical Reviewer: Nancy Hammond, M.D.
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 18
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