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WHAT’S Lewy Body Dementia, and just why Is It SO DIFFICULT to Diagnose?

ATLANTA - MAY 10: Comedian Robin Williams performs at Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta Georgia. May 10, 1986 (Photo By Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

TW: This short article contains reference to suicide. Please proceed thoughtfully.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Robin Williams’s death. The legendary comedian and actor committed suicide in 2014 at age 63. Williams experienced depression and was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which played a job in the “frustration” and discomfort Williams experienced in life, in accordance with his son Zak Williams who spoke this past year on The Genius Life podcast concerning the misdiagnosis. It had been later discovered following the comedian’s death he actually had Lewy body dementia.

The mind disease impacted Williams’ thinking, memory, and movement control which got truly in the way of both his career and family life, his son said on the podcast. “There is a focus issue that frustrated him, there have been issues connected with how he felt and in addition from the neurological perspective he didn’t feel good,” he says.

Dad, on the eighth anniversary of one’s passing, I’m remembering how incredibly kind and joyful you’re. I deeply miss you you wonderful, hairy man and you will be celebrating your daily life today. Love you so so much!

Zak Williams (@zakwilliams) August 11, 2022

“What he was going right through didn’t match someone to one [with what] many Parkinson’s patients experience,” Zak said. “So, I believe that has been hard for him.”

Why was Williams misdiagnosed? In accordance with experts, there are numerous similarities between Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. Continue reading for more information about Lewy body dementia, including causes, symptoms, and treatment.

WHAT’S Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia, also known Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is really a brain disease due to an abnormal buildup of proteins into masses called “Lewy bodies,” in accordance with Mayo Clinic. The progressive dementia results in a decline in thinking, reasoning, independent function, and may include changes in attention, visual hallucinations, sleep disorder, and slow movement.

Lewy body dementia “causes some or all the motor outward indications of Parkinson,” in accordance with Johns Hopkins Medicine, which could’ve contributed to Williams’s misdiagnosis. Symptoms like tremors, fluctuating cognition, and difficulty with movement all overlap. Alzheimer’s Association (AA) says the diseases may be from the same underlying brain abnormalities.

How Is Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosed?

In accordance with the National Institute for Aging (NIA), there’s ongoing research to diagnose Lewy body dementia earlier in life, but the only solution to definitively confirm it really is by way of a brain autopsy conducted after death. What doctors can do is use your present signs or symptoms to eliminate other conditions. Still, in the first stages, dementia with lewy bodies is hard to tell apart from Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease, based on the Alzheimer’s Association.

A lot of people identified as having the Lewy body dementia are over 60, and it’s really more prevalent in men, per the Mayo Clinic, which put Williams in the bigger risk category as he was 63 when he died. Genealogy of the condition also escalates the probability of developing Lewy body dementia, though it isn’t considered a genetic disease.

Can Lewy Body Dementia Be Treated or Cured?

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no cure for Lewy body dementia, so treatment targets managing symptoms, says the NIA. Behavioral and mood changes worsen as thinking abilities decline, making depression, apathy, agitation, paranoia, and delusions common. Certain Alzheimer’s disease medications and Parkinson’s disease medications enable you to address symptoms. Non-drug approaches can also be helpful. Certain changes in lifestyle, like modifying your environment and creating daily routines, could also aid in symptom alleviation, per the Mayo Clinic. It is suggested to utilize both a neurologist who focuses on dementia, and a counselor to provide emotional support.

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