BOCA RATON, Fla. - Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are widely known to the public, but another condition has similar symptoms: Lewy body dementia.
The condition differs from the other two diseases because its victims often have hallucinations, believing that they're seeing children or small dogs.
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A new clinical trial in South Florida might be a breakthrough for more than 1 million Americans with that type of dementia.
Comedian Robin Williams took his own life two years ago. It was later revealed that he suffered from depression, as well as the debilitating brain disorder LBD.
It's a diagnosis with which the McKenzie family is all too familiar. For Richard McKenzie, it started with a little memory loss.
"He was shaking in his hand, (had) visual problems and balance issues," McKenzie's daughter, Susan McKenzie, said.
The 83-year-old was diagnosed with LBD, which is a buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain that causes a variety of symptoms.
"(It affects) hand-eye coordination, depth perception, being able to interpret things in your visual fields. Other symptoms are visual hallucinations (and) seeing things not there, typically small people and furry animals," Dr. James Galvin said.
There is no current treatment specifically for LBD patients, but Florida Atlantic University is participating in a clinical study of a new drug called intepirdine, a medication that researchers hope will improve memory.
"By blocking one neurotransmitter, it will increase another neurotransmitter, and we think it will have a symptomatic benefit for the cognitive symptoms of Lewy body dementia," Galvin said.
The study of the drug is going on at sites in the U.S. and in Europe. The hope is to enroll 240 people and follow them for six months.
McKenzie is taking part in the double-blind study.
Doctors said that if the new drug looks promising, it will open the door for more research and better treatments for people like McKenzie.
For more information on the study, call Galvin's office at 561-297-4802.
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