Robin Williams Had Early Form of Lewy Body Dementia
On Nov. 12, this report was released by ABC News:
In recent autopsy reports released, Robin Williams had a common but difficult to diagnose condition known as Lewy Body Dementia and this may have contributed to his decision to commit suicide last August.
All people with LBD have dementia and sometimes appear confused and disoriented and exhibit unusual behavior, said Angela Taylor, the director of programming for the Lewy Body Dementia Association. “The dementia usually leads to significant cognitive impairment that interferes with everyday life,” Taylor said.
While difficult to distinguish from Parkinson’s disease – which Williams also had — LBD isn’t rare, Taylor said. Like Williams, many of the 1.4 million people diagnosed with LBD in the United States are initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s. As the diseases progress they begin to show LBD symptoms including trouble sleeping and vivid hallucinations.
Despite how common LBD seems to be, doctors have difficulty making the correct diagnosis, Taylor said. In the early stages, cognitive function fluctuates and people who have it may be able to pull themselves together for periods of time, Taylor explained “If you didn’t know them well, you may not realize anything is wrong,” she said.
The diagnosis is often confirmed after death when looking through a microscope reveals Lewy Bodies, tiny protein deposits on the nerve cells of the brain. According to the report, the autopsy of Williams’ brain showed Lewy Bodies as well as other brain changes that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.