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Signs You're Getting Parkinson's Disease, Like Michael J. Fox

There are four main symptoms of the brain disorder.
Actor Michael J. Fox

This week, actor Michael J. Fox opened up about his over 22-year-long battle with Parkinson's Disease. First diagnosed in 1998, the 59-year-old has been incredibly honest about his health struggles, which recently took a turn for the worst when a noncancerous tumor started growing on his spine two years ago, causing him to fall and break his arm. 

"That was definitely my darkest moment," Fox told People magazine in a recent interview. "I just snapped. I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, 'This is as low as it gets for me.' It was when I questioned everything. Like, 'I can't put a shiny face on this. There's no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.'"  

After years of shining an optimistic light, he started losing hope. However, he learned how to get back to his happy place, which he shares in his fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future, out Nov. 17. "Optimism is really rooted in gratitude," he says. "Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn't mean that you can't endeavor to change. It doesn't mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on." Read on to discover the signs of Parkinson's, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

How to Determine Your Risk of Parkinson's Disease

So what exactly is Parkinson's and what are the symptoms? According to the National Institute on Aging, Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder caused by the death of dopamine producing cells in the brain. Despite extensive research, it isn't clear exactly why this occurs. However, it is believed that the disease may result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as exposure to toxins. And while it impacts both genders, it affects 50 percent more men than women. Age is another risk factor, with most people developing it around age 50. Just 5 to 10 percent of people with Parkinson's have "early-onset" disease — such as Fox — which begins before the age of 50. 

RELATED: Signs You're Getting Dementia, Like Sean Connery

How to Identify Your Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

There are four main symptoms of Parkinson's as well as other less prominent ones:

  • Tremor (trembling) in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head (main)
  • Stiffness of the limbs and trunk (main)
  • Slowness of movement (main)
  • Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls (main) 
  • Depression and other emotional changes
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Urinary problems
  • Constipation
  • Skin problems 
  • Sleep disruptions 

The NIH explains that symptoms begin gradually, worsening over time. Difficulty walking and talking becomes increasingly more common as it progresses, as do mental and behavioral changes, issues sleeping, depression, memory problems, and fatigue. 

"I always had a real proficiency for lines and memorization," Fox told People. "And I had some extreme situations where the last couple of jobs I did were actually really word-heavy parts. I struggled during both of them," he admits. "I'm down to this"—he said of writing—"My guitar playing is no good. My sketching is no good anymore, my dancing never was good, and acting is getting tougher to do. So it's down to writing. Luckily, I really enjoy it."

Unfortunately, medical tests are not definitive in detecting the disease, so diagnosis can be difficult. Be sure to discuss the situation with a medical professional if you worry you're at risk, and no matter where you live, wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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