Actor Richard Lewis reveals Parkinson's diagnosis — signs and symptoms explained

Actor Richard Lewis reveals Parkinson's diagnosis — what experts want you to know about the debilitating and incurable disease.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 06: Comedian Richard Lewis attends the premiere of
Richard Lewis announces Parkinson’s diagnosis (Getty).

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Richard Lewis, a stand-up comedian and actor best known for his role in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is living with Parkinson's Disease.

In an emotional video shared on Twitter Sunday, the 75-year-old star revealed he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease two years ago.

Speaking in the clip, the comedian revealed he's had a "rocky time" with his health over the last three-and-a-half years, undergoing four "out of the blue" surgeries: Back surgery, shoulder surgery, shoulder replacement surgery and a hip replacement.

"It's bad luck, but it's life," the actor told fans.

"On top of all of that, two years ago, I started walking a little stiffly, I was shuffling my feet, and I went to a neurologist and they gave me a brain scan and I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease," he said.

"Luckily, I got it late in life and they say you progress very slowly, if at all, and I'm on the right meds, so I'm cool."

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 06: Actor/comedian Richard Lewis and Larry David attend the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Mel Brooks after party at Dolby Theatre on June 6, 2013 in Hollywood, California. Special Broadcast will air Saturday, June 15 at 9:00 P.M. ET/PT on TNT and Wednesday, July 24 on TCM as part of an All-Night Tribute to Brooks. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)
Richard Lewis, a stand-up comedian and actor best known for his role in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is living with Parkinson's Disease (Getty).

Like many incurable and progressive conditions, Parkinson's Disease (PD) – a disorder of the brain and central nervous system that impacts movement and speech – may have small, subtle or vague symptoms at first. Actor Michael J. Fox, one of the most well-known individuals living with the disease, said he was diagnosed after feeling a twitch in his left pinky finger at 29. In 2020, he was forced to quit acting due to his unreliable memory, speech and mobility.

With a new diagnosis every nine minutes, there are more than 10 million people worldwide living with the disease today. With cases rising exponentially during the pandemic, it's more important than ever to understand Parkinson's and its symptoms.

Peripheral Neuropathy pain in elderly patient on hand, fingers, sensory nerves with numb, muscle weakness from chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
Still limbs and tremors are early warning signs of Parkinson's Disease. (Photo via Getty Images)

“There are many early warning signs of Parkinson’s to look out for,” Dr. Abdel Kaleel, a neurologist at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ont. told Yahoo Canada in a previous interview. “It’s important to contact your doctor straight away if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of the disease, as a quick diagnosis is imperative.”

Read on to learn what these warning signs are, who is at risk, and what you can do if you think you or someone you know has Parkinson's Disease.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

“Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder which impacts and decreases dopamine-producing neurons in the brain," Kaleel explains. "Symptoms typically develop over time. There are treatment options available such as physical therapy, mobility aids, surgery and medication.”

While the disease itself is not often fatal, complications from Parkinson’s can be very serious.

Parkinson's Home caregiver helping senior woman to walk
Mobility aids, physical therapy and medication can be effective ways to treat Parkinson's Disease. (Photo via Getty Images)

Parkinson's can lead to stiffness, shaking and difficulty with coordination, balance and walking. As it progresses, patients may have behavioural and mental changes, depression, problems sleeping and fatigue.

Both men and women can get Parkinson's, but the condition affects approximately 50 per cent more men than women. While there is currently no cure, all treatment options aim to improve symptoms while slowing the progression of the disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s?

Luckily, there are a plethora of signs and symptoms that can help determine if you have Parkinson's Disease. The most common symptoms are tremors (in the hands, legs, jaw, mouth and legs), slowness of movement, stiff limbs and impaired coordination and balance.

Parkinson's Woman Helping Senior Neighbor With Paperwork
Changes in handwriting and loss of smell are unexpected and overlooked signs of Parkinson's. (Photo via Getty Images).

Kaleel adds that “urinary problems, constipation, difficulty chewing or swallowing, sleep disruptions, or sudden changes in skin tone” are other signs of PD.

Symptoms and the rate of progression vary among individuals, which is why the disease can be difficult to accurately diagnose. Some people may dismiss these early warning signs as the normal effects of aging, but it’s important to contact your doctor to investigate any symptoms further.

Who is at risk for developing Parkinson’s?

According to Kaleel, “risk factors in the progression and development of Parkinson’s include hereditary links, advancing age such as being over the age of 50 and being subjected to toxins. Males are also far more likely to get the disease than women are.”

Environmental factors also play a role in the development of PD, such as exposure to pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals, which can damage the part of the brain where dopamine is produced.

Additionally, individuals with a sibling or parent affected by Parkinson’s are approximately two to three times more likely to develop the disease.

Parkinson's Three generation Hispanic family standing in the park, smiling to camera, selective focus
While age is a common risk factor of Parkinson's Disease, environmental factors and genetics also play a role. (Photo via Getty Images).

“If you’re a boxer or athlete, or have experienced repeated concussions or blows to the head, you might be more at risk," Kaleel says. "But at this point, the research is too limited to be one hundred per cent sure."

How can I prevent Parkinson’s Disease?

As there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, proven ways to prevent the disease remains a mystery. However, scientists and doctors do know that aging, stress and inflammation can contribute to cell damage and abnormal dopamine levels in the brain.

One of the most critical things we can do for our long-term cognitive and physical health is to keep our stress levels down to reduce inflammation in the body.

Other research has shown that regular aerobic exercise and consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and Omega-3 fatty acids may have some benefit.

Parkinson's Happy old lady eating fresh green salad, smiling..
To help prevent Parkinson's Disease, research suggests that consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and Omega-3 fatty acids may have some benefit. (Photo via Getty Images)

“Vitamins found in green tea, vegetables, fruits and dark, leafy greens can dramatically decrease inflammation and promote a healthy brain. Omega-3s found in wild-caught fish, eggs and walnuts are also known to do the same,” explains Kaleel. “I’d also eat organic and local produce when possible to reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides found in your food.

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