Civil rights activist and politician, Rev. Jesse Jackson has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he recently announced.
“My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago,” Jackson, 76, said in a statement. “After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.”
A neurological disorder with no known cure, Parkinson’s is commonly associated with tremors, stiffness and difficulty with walking and balancing. The disease was made popular in the Robin Williams film, Awakenings. Williams’ suffered from early stages of the disease in real life too.
Northwestern Medicine in Chicago said in a statement that Jackson was diagnosed with the disease in 2015 and has been treated as an outpatient in the years since.
Parkinson’s disease affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. People with the disease typically live from 6 to 20 years after the initial findings. But in the case of Jesse, he’s older in age and has a family history of it, so his prognosis may be worse.
Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with PD may experience:
– Tremor, mainly at rest and described as pill rolling tremor in hands. Other forms of tremor are possible
– Slowness of movements (bradykinesia)
– Limb rigidity
– Gait and balance problems
The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and
Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from Parkinson’s Disease as the 14th cause of death in the United States.
While it’s unclear what stage Jackson is in, here are the five stages of Parkinson’s Disease:
During this initial stage, the person has mild symptoms that generally do not interfere with daily activities. Tremor and other movement symptoms occur on one side of the body only. Changes in posture, walking and facial expressions occur.
Symptoms start getting worse. Tremor, rigidity and other movement symptoms affect both sides of the body. Walking problems and poor posture may be apparent. The person is still able to live alone, but daily tasks are more difficult and lengthy.
Considered mid-stage, loss of balance and slowness of movements are hallmarks. Falls are more common. The person is still fully independent, but symptoms significantly impair activities such as dressing and eating.
At this point, symptoms are severe and limiting. It’s possible to stand without assistance, but movement may require a walker. The person needs help with activities of daily living and is unable to live alone.
This is the most advanced and debilitating stage. Stiffness in the legs may make it impossible to stand or walk. The person requires a wheelchair or is bedridden. Around-the-clock nursing care is required for all activities. The person may experience hallucinations and delusions. The Parkinson’s community acknowledges that there are many important non-motor symptoms as well as motor symptoms.
Jackson described his Parkinson’s diagnosis as “a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”
“It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide,” he said in a statement. “Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.”