One of Hollywood’s most notable actors, Robin Williams has made history in both comedic and dramatic roles throughout his career. Despite his seemingly limitless success and talent, his life took a tragic turn on August 14, 2014. The beloved hero of ‘Patch Adams’ committed suicide at the age of 63, shocking the whole world.
Following this tragic loss, there was much speculation as to the reasons behind the comedian’s decision; these speculations indicated that deep depression and possibly a return to old addictions triggered his death.
However, the autopsy performed a short time later revealed an important fact that would shed light on the mystery of his death.
It has been revealed that Robin Williams was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease throughout his life.
Actually, He was struggling with another neurodegenerative disorder called Dementia with Lewy Bodies (LDB).This turned his last years into a real ordeal.
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Today, Robin Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider, and one of her sons, Zak, set out to debunk false speculation surrounding the actor’s death while also raising awareness about the little-known disease he suffered.
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They shared that the comedian suffered from memory loss, paranoia, anxiety attacks and other ailments without being able to fully diagnose what was happening to him.
Zak Williams, the son of the Oscar-winning actor for the movie ‘The Pursuit of Destiny’, stated that the misdiagnosis of his father’s disease deeply disturbed and frustrated him in the last years of his life.
The actual mental disorder that afflicted Williams also severely affected his memory and ability to improvise, which was a hallmark of his acting career.
“Sometimes he had trouble remembering a line of dialogue. His wife, Susan Schneider, said: “This was not a problem he had ever had before, he was the sharpest smart person you could ever meet and so this must have upset him so much.”
It was revealed after the autopsy Robin Williams was struggling with Lewy Body Dementia. It is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects areas of the brain involved in thinking, memory and movement, causing hallucinations, movement disorders, sleep problems, apathy and depression.
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Unfortunately, a definitive diagnosis of this disease can only be made after death, when the characteristic Lewy bodies can be identified in the brain.
“After doing the autopsy, the doctors said to me: ‘Are you surprised to find Lewy bodies in your husband’s brain and brainstem?’ I didn’t know what Lewy bodies were, but I said, ‘No, I’m not surprised.’ The fact that something had infiltrated every part of my husband’s brain made sense of his behavior.“, declared for the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’.
Williams’ health problems began with stomach pains. This is followed by hand tremors and sleep problems, triggering increased anxiety.
The changing nature of the disease’s symptoms complicated his diagnosis and experience for both himself and his family.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is a neurodegenerative disease. The second most common disease after Alzheimer’s.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, in LDB, protein deposits called ‘Lewy bodies’ develop in the nerve cells of the brain. Protein deposits affect areas of the brain involved in thinking, memory and movement. This can cause hallucinations, movement disorders, sleep problems, apathy, and depression.
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An important feature of this disease is An accurate and definitive diagnosis can only be made when the patient dies. This is when Lewy bodies, which appear as dark spots in neurons, can be identified.
Common symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies include:
– Visual Hallucinations: People with LBD often experience vivid, recurring hallucinations; These hallucinations may also include seeing people, animals, or objects that do not actually exist. These hallucinations can be distressing for both the individual and their caregivers.
– Cognitive Fluctuations: LBD is characterized by fluctuating cognitive abilities. This means that a person’s attention and alertness may vary throughout the day, with periods of clarity followed by confusion or drowsiness. These fluctuations can be rapid and unpredictable.
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– Parkinsonism: Many people with LBD develop symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, such as slow movements, stiff muscles, tremors, and a shuffling gait. These motor symptoms can contribute to difficulties with balance and mobility.
– REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD): RBD is a sleep disorder common in LBD. It involves the physical enactment of dreams during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can lead to injuries or sleep disturbances.
– Autonomic Dysfunction: LBD can affect the autonomic nervous system, leading to problems with blood pressure regulation, heart rate, digestion, and temperature control. This can cause dizziness, falls, constipation, and other problems.
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– Fluctuations in Attention and Alertness: People with LBD may have difficulty sustaining attention and staying awake. They may sometimes appear sleepy or confused, which can be challenging for caregivers.
– Memory and Thinking Problems: Like Alzheimer’s disease, LBD can cause memory impairment and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning. These cognitive deficits become more pronounced as the disease progresses.
– Changes in Mood and Behavior: LBD can lead to mood swings, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Some people may also show changes in personality and judgment.
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– Drug Sensitivity: People with LBD can be quite sensitive to some medications, especially antipsychotics. These drugs can worsen hallucinations and motor symptoms and should be used with caution.
– Hallucinations: Visual hallucinations are a characteristic symptom of LBD. These hallucinations often involve seeing people, animals, or objects that are not real and may disturb the individual.
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It is important to note that the specific combination and severity of symptoms may vary from person to person with LBD.
Due to the complexity of the disease and its overlap with other neurodegenerative diseases, a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional experienced with dementia is essential for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Early diagnosis and appropriate care can improve the quality of life of people with LBD and their caregivers.
*This content was created with the help of artificial intelligence, based on information from La Nación and Mayo Clinic. It was reviewed by a journalist and an editor.
ALEJANDRA OSPINA CORDERO
DIGITAL COVERAGE EDITORIAL