Parkinson's disease can lead to depression

INDIANAPOLIS - Robin Williams’ wife released a statement Thursday revealing that the actor was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease -- a diagnosis he was not ready to share publicly.

Don Waterman didn’t know Williams, but he does know the battle Williams would have faced with Parkinson’s and he said it is not uncommon for those with the disease to consider suicide.

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking, tremors and difficulty walking. More than 50,000 people are diagnosed with it each year in the U.S. and there is no cure.

RELATED: Widow: Robin Williams had Parkinson's disease

It has been six years since doctors diagnosed Waterman with Parkinson’s. Since then, his family started the Indiana Parkinson Foundation to help fund research to find a cure.

These days, the focus is on improving the lives of those with the disease by keeping them moving at one of the foundation’s many facilities.

"When they come here, there's other people they can talk to about the disease that haunts them every day," Waterman said.

Waterman said Parkinson’s is more than just living with tremors; it can affect your mental state.

The drugs that patients take can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

"It does cause depression and cognitive decline. And without other people to talk to, you kind of feel like you're on your way to becoming crazy," Waterman said.

Dr. Christopher Gomez, neurology chairman at the University of Chicago, said while it makes sense to think that a diagnosis could make someone feel depressed, depression and Parkinson's have a deeper, more organic connection. They are thought to affect the same regions of the brain, although their neurological relationship isn't well understood, he said.

"It's downright curious that there's so much depression in Parkinson's," Gomez said.

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