Former Black Sabbath frontman and overall heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne took time to address his ailing health this week, revealing that he's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease following serious injuries sustained during a fall that happened over a year ago. Appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, Osbourne and his wife Sharon, who is also his manager, shared intimate details about the health scare that has largely affected his career and the entire family on the whole.
"It's been terribly challenging for us all. I did my last show New Year's Eve at The Forum… Then I had a bad fall. I had to have surgery on my neck, which screwed all my nerves," Osbourne shared with Robin Roberts, adding that the accident occurred shortly after his last public concert in Los Angeles in 2018. Fans initially had cause for concern when the 71-year-old was hospitalized for complications stemming from the flu last February, but it's unclear if he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the time. Osbourne recently postponed his latest tour until October 2020, telling fans in the announcement, "I can't wait to get off my a-- and get going again, but you're just going to have to be a bit more patient… I want to be 100 percent ready to come out and knock your f------ socks off."
During this week's GMA interview, Sharon clarified that her husband has stage 2 Parkinson's disease — and like all other forms of this neurodegenerative disease, routine movements and functioning becomes greatly impaired over time. "There's so many different types of Parkinson's — it's not a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination, but it does affect certain nerves in your body," Sharon said. "And it's, it's like you have a good day, a good day, and then a really bad day." The bonafide rockstar has relied heavily on support from his family for a majority of the last year, including from his children. Osbourne's son Jack, who was previously been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, has reportedly tried to help his father understand the intricacies of Parkinson's disease amid many visits to specialists over the last year, according to People.
While the family confirmed that Ozzy has undergone extensive treatment over the last year, Sharon revealed that Ozzy will have to travel abroad to receive additional help in Switzerland, adding that they've "got all the answers we can get here." Believe it or not, Osbourne wouldn't be the first to leave the United States for new treatment — health experts say there are some drugs available abroad that aren't available in the U.S. just yet.
We're reviewing some ways that this disorder is treated below, including new ways that those living with Parkinson's disease can be treated in the long run.
What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson's disease is an incurable disorder that gradually affects the body's nervous system and your ability to move and communicate on a daily basis. Symptoms begin to reveal themselves as the nerve cells, also known as neurons, in your brain begin to decline or die altogether. "Parkinson's disease is the second most-common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease," says Junaid Siddiqui, MD, a neurology specialist in the University of Missouri Health Care system. Currently, medical experts are unable to pinpoint a single source of Parkinson's disease — but clinical research suggests that, more often than not, Parkinson's disease is passed on via genes and genetic mutations.
Osbourne admitted that he has struggled with multiple side-effects after being diagnosed with stage 2 Parkinson's disease, some of which may actually be due to surgery conducted on his neck. But his condition could become more challenging as time progress, says Mary Maral Mouradian, MD, a professor of neurology at Rutgers University and the director of the university's Institute for Neurological Therapeutics. "A scale commonly used to define different stages is called the Hoehn and Yahr Scale, which goes from 1 to 5," Mouradian explains. "Stage 1 means one side of the body manifests symptoms, whereas stage 2 involves both sides, and stage 3 occurs when balance is impaired." Stages 4 and 5 are extremely advance, with the latter being characterized by someone being immobile in bed or a wheelchair.
Mouradian says that those diagnosed with stage 2 Parkinson's disease have yet to experience issues affecting their balance while walking, adding that "they can be quite functional" in everyday life. Parkinson's progresses differently for each person and it can be years before someone advances into the next stage of the disease, Siddiqui adds, so it's not so clear as to when Osbourne might experience more challenges beyond general numbness and loss of function across some extremities.
What are the most common symptoms of Parkinson's disease?
Osbourne shared that he currently experiences numbness in some areas of his body — but what other symptoms are normally associated with the disorder? Bradykinesia, a clinical term for slow and poorly coordinated movements, is a hallmark sign that medical experts often use to diagnose the condition, Mouradian explains. Other common symptoms as the disease progresses may include:
- Tremors, which can be sporadic and an early on-set symptom
- Rigidity and stiffness across sections of the body or in individual body parts
- A loss of smell and visual disturbances, like the inability to focus
- Sleep fragmentation and REM sleep behavior disorder, which involves physically reacting to dreams
- Dementia and other cognitive changes, which are both advanced and should be expected in later stages of the disease
Siddiqui explains that some of these symptoms "may go on for years before diagnosis," as they can appear sporadically and in their own time. While medical experts may be aware of general symptoms as they relate to Parkinson's, each affected individual may present these symptoms at different times — and some may not experience some of the more common hallmarks (i.e. tremors) at all.
How can you treat Parkinson's disease?
There currently is no cure for Parkinson's disease. Patients are treated holistically on a case by case basis, and experts like Siddiqui are hopeful that active research already underway may soon present a way to completely treat the disease entirely. "In the first few years, there is usually no need for medications since the symptoms are very mild," he says. But as the disorder progresses, there are medications that can provide "symptomatic relief" to the most apparent side effects of living with Parkinson's, Siddiqui explains.
In earlier stages of the disease, Mouradian suggests that most neurology experts often rely on methods beyond medicine to treat patients. "Physical therapy and other forms of therapy, such as speech therapy, if needed, are important too." She adds that there are a number of experimental treatments in development that may be able to slow just how fast this disease can completely change one's everyday life. "Recently, focused ultrasound — a form of non-invasive brain surgery — was approved for tremor-predominant Parkinson disease. And there are a number of experimental treatments in development both to find better symptomatic treatments and more importantly treatments that slow down or stop disease progression."
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