Robin Williams was only 63 years old when he decided to take his life in 2014. However, it was not until after he died that doctors discovered that he suffered from Lewy Body Dementia or LBD.
In November 2013, Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. It is not uncommon for Lewey Body Dementia to be misdiagnosed as either Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or other psychiatric diseases due to many of the symptoms being the same or extremely similar.
It was not until during his autopsy that doctors discovered the presence of Lewy Bodies within his brain and offically diagnosed him with LBD. LBD is caused by deposists of abnormal protien (otherwise known as Lewy Bodies) forming around the brain stem, causing the Parkinson's like symptoms that many patients experience. Over time these deposits begin to grow and spread out to other parts of brain, causing Dementia and other symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer's disease.
An MRI scan demonstrating what Lewy Bodies look like
There are a variety of ways that LBD is treated. Usually people with this disease take a variety of medications in order to alleviate or lessen some of the symptoms that they experience. Many people take Alzhiemer's and Parkinson's medication in order to help their cognitive and motor function, but there are a few cases where people with this disease also take antipsychotics in order to prevent hallucinations that are common with this disease. Most patients also chose to recieve therapy ranging from physical to occuptional therapy rather than take some of the medications.
The only treatment and therapy that Robin Williams recieved was for Parkinson's, which meant that many of his other symptoms where left unchecked. Doctors believe that it was the lack of treatment for these symptoms that eventually contributed to Robin Williams desicion to commit suicide, either directly or indirectly by causing depression and other similar conditions.
Because Robin Williams was discovered to have LBD after his death, he did not recieve a long term prognosis. However, the long term prognosis for this disease ranges anywhere from two to twenty years, with most people receiving a prognosis of five to eight years depending on the person's health, severity of symptoms, and how soon they are diagnosed and treated. Unfortunatly, there is not yet a cure for this disease, so all that current medicene can do is help alleviate the symptoms until a cure is developed.
LBD is not an uncommon disease. In fact, it affects 1.4 million people in the United States alone and millions more worldwide. This disease is extremely hard to diagnose early, as the Lewy Bodies and distinct symptoms take time to develop. Robin Williams was one of the countless individuals who did not know that they had this condition before they died. However, through continued research and understanding of this disease and others like it, a specific test for diagnosing this condition and cure might be possible in the note so distant future.