Parkinson’s Disease: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

robin williams, susan schneider, parkinsons disease

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According to his wife, Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s shortly before he took his own life. Read on to learn the symptoms and treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.


1. Robin Williams’ Wife Says Her Husband Had Parkinson’s

Robin Williams, Susan Schneider

Robin Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, released a statement that revealed her husband was in the early stages of Parkinson’s. The statement reads, in part:

“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

ABC News explains that Parkinson’s Disease is a debilitating illness that can cause tremors, halting walking patterns, slowed speech and sometimes dementia. Other celebs who are known to have Parkinson’s Disease include Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Johnny Cash.


2. Parkinson’s Disease Has Been Linked to Depression

The clip above from The Doctors explains how Parkinson’s can affect the body.

Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to depression, which may explain the despair that drove Williams to commit suicide. Williams had struggled with depression and addiction over the years, and was reportedly sleeping 18 hours a day in the weeks before his suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who have both Parkinson’s and depression can be especially susceptible to mental health problems:

“People with both illnesses tend to have more movement problems and greater levels of anxiety than those who have just depression or Parkinson’s disease…One recent brain imaging study also suggests that people with Parkinson’s disease may have an unusually high number of reuptake pumps for the brain chemical messenger serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, but overactive pumps reduce serotonin levels, possibly leading to depressive symptoms in some people with Parkinson’s disease.”

Additionally, the stress of being diagnosed with any serious illness can understandably darken a person’s mental outlook.


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3. Parkinson’s Disease Is Named for James Parkinson

James Parkinson was an English doctor who published the first detailed description of the disease in 1817. Parkinson referred to the disease as “the shaking palsy” or “paralysis agitates.” It was a French doctor named Jean-Martin Charcot who started referring to this illness as Parkinson’s Disease. Charcot was also notable because he was the first doctor to distinguish between multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.


4. There Are Treatments Available for Parkinson’s

Learn about one new treatment for Parkinson’s in the video above.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there are many treatment options available. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that these treatments focus on improving the patient’s quality of life. As far as medications go, here is what patients are usually given:

“Because Parkinson’s disease symptoms are due to a deficiency of the brain chemical dopamine, the main drug treatments help increase dopamine levels in the brain. Levadopa, usually combined with carbidopa, is the standard drug treatment. For patients who do not respond to levadopa, dopamine agonists (drugs that mimic the action of dopamine) may be prescribed. Other types of medication may also be used. Unfortunately, many of these drugs can cause side effects and lose effectiveness over time.”

Physical therapy can help patients retain mobility, while surgical deep brain stimulation can help patients control their motor functions.


5. Parkinson’s Disease Is Not Fatal, But Can Reduce Lifespan

The video above showcases an easy way to test for Parkinson’s Disease. The video features mathematician and TED Fellow Max Little, who uses a 30-second phone call to test for the illness.

Parkinson’s Disease is not fatal, though it can drastically affect a person’s quality of life. Parkinson’s may reduce a person’s lifespan. As Parkinson’s progresses, it can cause potentially fatal complications such as choking, pneumonia, or falls. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “the average life expectancy of a person with PD is generally the same as for people who do not have the disease.”