Like Local 3 News on Facebook:
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.
Michael O'Leary says, "I did triathlons … and even raced paddle boards."
O'Leary has always been an athlete. But just last year, he fell while playing in the US Open Pickle Ball Championships … and his new bride noticed other changes.
O'Leary says, "It would almost appear like I were … had been drinking when I really wasn't."
His balance, memory, and speech were getting worse. They finally got the devastating diagnosis; Michael had Lewy body dementia.
Dr. James Galvin, Florida Atlantic University says, "We estimate there are approximately 1.3 million Americans who have Lewy body dementia."
Dr. Galvin says this disease causes neurological symptoms due to a buildup of protein in the brain called Lewy bodies.
Dr. Galvin says, "First there has to be a dementia, uh that is a progressive change in cognitive abilities, slow movement, balance problems, and rigidity or stiffness."
Another hallmark of the disease, patients see things that aren't really there.
Dr. Galvin says, "The hallucinations typically are very well formed of either little people or furry animals."
The scariest symptom has been O'Leary's sleep disorder.
Cindy O'Leary, Michael's wife says, "He would jump out of bed, thought somebody was chasing us, he'd run into the sliding glass doors."
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.
Dr. Galvin says, "The more that's around, the more likely you are to form a new memory."
Michael enrolled in the study and has been fitted for a specialized sports wheelchair so he can continue playing pickle ball.
O'Leary says, "I can't wait to get on the court more."
Facing this disease the way he does all challenges, head on!
Doctors are currently enrolling LBD patients for a sleep disorder study.