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What Killed Robin Williams?

American actor Robin Williams, center, makes a joke as he is escorted by U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002. Williams entertained U.S. soldiers with the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne, both out of Ft. Bragg, N.C., as well as reservists and National Guard. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

American actor Robin Williams, center, makes a joke as he is escorted by U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002. Williams entertained U.S. soldiers with the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne, both out of Ft. Bragg, N.C., as well as reservists and National Guard. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Was it depression or disease?

Many had thought that Williams was depressed over being stretched financially after several divorces, and being forced into movies he’d rather not have to make. But it turns out the actor was suffering from Lewy body dementia:

His widow, Susan Williams, is speaking out this week for the first time more than a year after his death and raising awareness of how Lewy body dementia had devastating effects on her husband in the weeks before he died.

“Lewy body dementia is what killed Robin,” Williams said. “It’s what took his life and that’s what I spent the last year trying to get to the bottom of, what took my husband’s life.”

Lewy body dementia results after specific protein bodies cause problems with thinking, mood, movement and behavior, according to the National Institute of Health.

It is fairly common and currently affects about 1 million people in the United States, according to the NIH. Typically, the disease strikes people at age 50 or older.

An autopsy revealed last year that the beloved actor had early-stage Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Doctors examining autopsy reports told Susan Williams the disease progression was one of the worst they had ever seen.

There are no known treatments to stop or even to slow down the brain cell damage caused by Lewy bodies, and the symptoms include “confusion and alertness that varies significantly from one time of day to another or from one day to the next,” delusions, and “malfunctions of the “automatic” (autonomic) nervous system.”

Williams based his career on his quick wit and impressive physical comedic skills. To have suffered from that kind of dementia — I can’t even imagine the devastation.