MIAMI (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than one million Americans face a devastating disease that affects balance and destroys memory. Now, for the first time, researchers are studying treatments for people with Lewy body dementia.
“I did triathlons, and even raced paddle boards,” Michael O’Leary told Ivanhoe.
Michael has always been an athlete. But just last year, he fell while playing in the U.S. Open Pickle Ball Championships and his new bride noticed other changes.
“It would almost appear like I had been drinking when I really wasn’t,” Michael explained.
His balance, memory, and speech were getting worse. They finally got the devastating diagnosis; Michael had Lewy body dementia.
“We estimate there are approximately 1.3 million Americans who have Lewy body dementia,” James Galvin, MD, MPH, Professor and Associate Dean of Clinical Research at Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Galvin says this disease causes neurological symptoms due to a buildup of protein in the brain called Lewy bodies.
“First there has to be a dementia; that is a progressive change in cognitive abilities, slow movement, balance problems, and rigidity or stiffness,” Dr. Galvin explained.
Another hallmark of the disease-patients see things that aren’t really there.
Dr. Galvin continued, “The hallucinations typically are very well formed of either little people or furry animals.”
The scariest symptom has been Michael’s sleep disorder.
“He would jump out of bed, thought somebody was chasing us, he'd run into the sliding glass doors,” Michael’s wife Cindy O’Leary, told Ivanhoe.
Now, for the first time, researchers at Florida Atlantic University are studying a drug that would support memory by increasing chemicals in the brains of LBD patients.
“The more that's around, the more likely you are to form a new memory,” Dr. Galvin stated.
Michael enrolled in the study and has been fitted for a specialized sports wheelchair so he can continue playing pickle ball.
“I can't wait to get on the court more,” Michael said.
Michael just had the honor of carrying the American flag at the 2017 U.S. Open Pickle Ball Championships where he was the only wheelchair athlete to compete! Doctors are currently enrolling LBD patients for a sleep disorder study. Anyone interested in the studies can call 800-501-0684 to find a clinic nearest to them, or visit http://studies.clin-edge.com/vh_rbd-1/.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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