Michael J. Fox is back in the spotlight this fall in a new sitcom “The Michael J. Fox Show” and spreading awareness about Parkinson’s disease, a condition both he and his TV character have in common. Fox has been an outspoken advocate for Parkinson’s disease research and awareness since disclosing his condition to the public in 1998.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and may cause shaking, muscle stiffness, slowing of movement, impaired balance or other symptoms. It impacts about 1 in 200 people, says Anhar Hassan, M.D., a Mayo Clinic movement disorders specialist.
Five things every person should know about Parkinson’s disease:
>People are typically diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their 60s. Early onset, such as Michael J. Fox’s, is rare.
>The disease is not a death sentence. With new medications, a healthy diet and a good exercise regimen, those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s can live upwards of 20 years and beyond.
>Genetics may play a slight factor, but there is no known characteristic of who is most likely to develop the disease.
>There is no definitive diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease until death. Physicians can anecdotally diagnosis it, but a definitive confirmation cannot be given until a brain biopsy is conducted. However, researchers are working to develop a test that could detect the disease years, even decades, before it presents.
>Parkinson’s disease doesn’t kill you. Symptoms it causes can lead to problems that do – such as problems with swallowing leading to choking and pneumonia, or falling and breaking a bone or hitting the head, and then never fully recovering.