Legendary comedian Billy Connolly seems to laugh in the face of his Parkinson’s symptoms. In 2013, the 73-year-old comedian and actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer in the same week. On top of that he was also fitted for two hearing aids during that week. Fortunately, Connolly underwent successful prostate surgery, and by October of 2013 he was all clear of his prostate cancer.
“I don’t fancy sitting in a church hall on a Wednesday night talking about it,” recalled Connolly about his Parkinson’s diagnosis. “I stay positive just by getting on and going to work…I had no intention of retiring.” Parkinson’s disease hasn’t stopped Connolly from making the films What We Did on Our Holiday and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
He remembers first telling his agent about his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. “My agent said, ‘When am I booking you for a [comedy] tour? I said, ‘I don’t know if I can.’ He said, ‘Of course you can.’ He nudged me over the cliff,” explained Connolly, who is a native of Scotland.
In 2015, Connolly toured Canada, New Zealand, and Scotland for some comedy shows. Connolly has even incorporated his Parkinson’s symptoms into his act.
“We were laughing about it because when the strain gets big, this hand starts to shake,” says Connolly, holding up his left hand at the time. “And I’m like, ‘look, look, look, look.’ And I do it on stage—I show the audience this hand creeps up on me.”
What Studies Say About Parkinson’s Symptoms
Parkinson’s disease is considered one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. In fact, it affects over seven million people around the world, and about one million Americans. In the U.S., there are about 60,000 new Parkinson’s cases reported every year.
Research is always being done to help understand the causes, Parkinson’s progression symptoms, and potential treatments. Take, for example, these recent studies.
Heptachlor epoxide is a pesticide found in milk during the early 1980s. In a study from December 2015 published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, heptachlor epoxide was linked with Parkinson’s symptoms. Long-term exposure to the pesticide is thought to cause convulsions and tremors.
What Are Early Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Sometimes it can be tough to tell if you have Parkinson’s disease. What are the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? One single symptom doesn’t necessarily indicate Parkinson’s, but if you experience more than one, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor. The following are the top early Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Tremor or shaking: People with Parkinson’s disease will often notice a tremor or shaking. It will typically begin in a limb, often in the hand or fingers. The person may also consistently rub their thumb and forefinger together in a “pill rolling” motion.
- Slowed movement: Slowed movement is also called bradykinesia. Parkinson’s disease sufferers often have a decreased ability to move, making it difficult to complete simple tasks. They may also drag their feet when walking, steps may become shorter, and they may also have trouble getting out of a chair.
- Rigid muscles: One of the most common early Parkinson’s symptoms includes a reduced arm swing on one side of the body when walking. Rigid muscles will cause this motion, and it can also affect the muscles of the neck, face, legs, or other parts of the body. Muscles may also feel achy and tired.
- Sleeping issues: People with Parkinson’s disease may punch and kick while asleep. They may also fall out bed.
- Loss of smell: Is it harder to detect the smells of certain foods, like licorice or bananas? This may indicate Parkinson’s disease.
- Masked face: The person may look serious, mad, or depressed. This is also called a masked face. A lack of blinking or having a blank stare may be an indication of Parkinson’s disease.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: Constipation or straining during bowel movements is considered one of the early Parkinson’s symptoms. This symptom can also indicate that the person needs more fiber or water.
- Cognitive or mood problems: A person with Parkinson’s disease may also experience cognitive issues like decision-making or problem-solving problems, or memory and attention span changes. Behavior and mood may also be altered, and anxiety, apathy, and depression are common.
- Speech changes: The person will also experience changes in speech, including speaking hoarsely, quickly or softly, or hesitating or slurring before they talk. They may think others are having trouble hearing them, but the reality is that they are speaking too softly, and Parkinson’s disease may the problem.
- Changes in writing: A person with Parkinson’s disease also finds it harder to write. Handwriting will appear much smaller than normal, letter sizes are smaller, or words look crowded together. But writing changes can also happen in older people with poor vision, or with stiff fingers or hands, so check with a doctor to be sure.
How to Treat Parkinson’s Symptoms
Lifestyle is important for Parkinson’s prevention. A study from 2014 found that an hour of moderate activity daily could significantly reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease. This can simply include brisk walking or household chores. Other ways to reduce your Parkinson’s risk include reducing pesticide and chemical exposure, and also eating fresh and raw vegetables.
How do you treat Parkinson’s symptoms? The most popular drug to treat Parkinson’s symptoms is Sinemet. It contains two key ingredients called carbidopa and levodopa. Levodopa, or l-DOPA, is a middle step that converts the amino acid tyrosine into the neurotransmitter dopamine. Carbidopa works to ensure that more l-DOPA converts to dopamine in the brain. Unfortunately, these Parkinson’s drugs are linked with side effects like nausea, vomiting, motor complications, sedation, delusions, and hallucinations.
The natural approach to treating Parkinson progression symptoms will help to reduce these side effects, while also protecting the neurons in the brain from further damage. In particular, coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that studies have found to reduce early Parkinson’s symptoms. Other antioxidants used in Parkinson’s treatment include vitamin C and vitamin E. Other natural Parkinson’s disease treatment will include essential fatty acids, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), milk thistle, ginkgo biloba, green tea extract, intravenous glutathione treatment, calcium and magnesium, valerian, skullcap, and passion flower.
What to Do When Suffering from Parkinson’s Symptoms
What’s the plan for early or end stage Parkinson’s symptoms? Exercise can be a great way to treat Parkinson’s symptoms. Exercises like tai chi and boxing have been found to be effective for Parkinson’s symptoms. An exercise program for Parkinson’s symptoms can also include yoga, lifting weights, and aerobic exercises like jogging or swimming. It also helps to have a positive outlook during any treatment for the condition.
Bodywork has also been found to effectively treat Parkinson’s symptoms, including massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, and acupressure. Various studies have found that acupuncture has a neuroprotective effect in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, including a 2010 trial published in the journal Neurology Research.
Other Ways to Treat Parkinson’s Symptoms
There are also other natural ways to treat Parkinson’s symptoms. For instance, diet is also important. A low-protein diet has demonstrated to help enhance l-DOPA therapy. It is often recommended to eliminate most protein from breakfast and lunch while having a regular protein intake at dinner.
Homeopathy is also considered an effective treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms. It is recommended to consult with a homeopath before taking a remedy. That said, common remedies for Parkinson’s symptoms include argentum nitricum, causticum, gelsemium, helleborus, mercurius solubilis, natrum muriaticum, plumbum, and rhus toxicodendron.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Parkinson’s disease,” Mayo Clinic web site, July 7, 2015; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20028488.
“Parkinson’s Disease – Symptoms,” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/tc/parkinsons-disease-symptoms, last accessed February 2, 2016.
“Billy Connolly works to ‘stay positive’ during Parkinson’s battle,” Herald Entertainment web site, January 24, 2016; http://m.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11578856.
“Statistics on Parkinson’s,” Parkinson’s Disease Foundation web site;http://parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Causes-and-Statistics/Statistics, last accessed February 2, 2016.
Ellis-Petersen, H., “Billy Connolly: I found out I had Parkinson’s and cancer on the same day,” The Guardian web site, April 29, 2014; http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/apr/29/billy-connolly-cancer-parkinsons-diagnosis-same-day.
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 428-433.
Murray, M., M.D., et al, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 868-875
Rakel, D., et al., Integrative Medicine: Third Edition (Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2012), 122-128.
Clarke, C.E., “Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy vs. No Therapy in Mild to Moderate Parkinson Disease,” JAMA Neurology, 2016, doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.4452.
Joh T.H., et al., “Recent development of acupuncture on Parkinson’s disease,” Neurology Research, February 2010; 32 Suppl 1: 5-9, doi: 10.1179/016164109X12537002793643.