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Ozzy Osbourne’s Parkinson’s Disease: A Hard Road

Ozzy Osbourne, known internationally as both a rock star and TV personality, recently revealed that he has Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s, a kind of movement disorder, starts very mild and slowly gets worse over time. It is treatable but can’t be cured.

Like other neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s causes nerve cells to die. The disease particularly kills off cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. These cells help make dopamine, a chemical that allows your nerve cells to communicate with one another.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Loss of these nerve cells causes symptoms that affect your ability to move and think. The symptoms get worse over time and affect your day-to-day life.

Movement Symptoms

  • Slower and more difficult movement
  • Stiffness on one or both sides of the body
  • Issues with posture and walking
  • Poor balance
  • Tremors (trembling) when you’re not moving

Mental symptoms

  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Impaired thinking

Parkinson’s, Parkinsonism and PRKN

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, up to one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. About ten million people around the world have it. That’s more than the combined number of people with ALS, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.

In 2005, it was reported that Osbourne was suffering from parkin syndrome, caused by mutations of the PRKN gene. (Osbourne’ wife, Sharon Osbourne, also claimed in their recent interview that Osbourne’s condition was related to PRKN.) The PRKN gene helps create parkin, a protein involved in the upkeep of your cells. Today, PRKN mutation is considered a root cause of autosomal recessive juvenile Parkinson disease. That’s a type of Parkinson’s that you inherit from your parents. It usually starts to show symptoms earlier in life than other forms.

“PARKIN is one of the genetic forms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease,” says Madaline B Harrison, MD, a neurodegenerative disorder specialist at UVA Health. “There are 8 identified genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease.”

For Ozzy to state that his disease is related to PRKN means he most likely had genetic testing. There isn’t any one special test that can say if you’ll get Parkinson’s, though. PRKN is just one of many genes involved in Parkinson’s disease.

Even when someone has genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s, they have a low likelihood of developing it. Their children, who may inherit the mutated genes, also will likely never develop Parkinson’s. Researchers believe Parkinson’s actually develops from a mix of genetics, lifestyle habits and environmental factors acting together.

Also, a number of conditions are grouped together as parkinsonism or parkinsonian syndromes. These conditions all have the symptoms and brain effects of Parkinson’s disease, but with additional symptoms. They are:

  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Corticobasal syndrome
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Vascular parkinsonism
  • Drug-induced parkinsonism

Treatment Options

Our bodies make new cells all the time. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t replace nerve cells. That’s why treating Parkinson’s is so difficult.

But even though Parkinson’s can’t be cured, people with Parkinson’s can live for a long time with the condition. The symptoms are treated with medicine, lifestyle changes and surgery. “The mainstay of treatment is the medication levodopa, given in combination with carbidopa. There are also other medications used generally in combination with levodopa,” says Harrison. Sometimes, physical therapy can also help.

In particular, deep brain stimulation or focused ultrasound can help relieve some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But not everyone responds the same way to treatment. That depends on the kind of Parkinson’s or parkinsonism they have, among other factors.

Living With Parkinson’s

Although Osbourne postponed his scheduled performances in 2019, he isn’t letting his condition stop him in his tracks. “This is a treatment-responsive condition that is slowly progressive,” reminds Harrison. With the support of his family, he got back into the studio to focus. “But I honestly think making this album is the best medicine I could have had. I was doing something, something I like to do. I wish I could do more, but it just felt great,” said Osbourne in an interview published in Kerrang!.

Need support for your or your loved one’s Parkinson’s disease?

Call the coordinators at UVA Health’s Referral Center, who can connect you with help.

This highlights something important about managing Parkinson’s disease and other chronic conditions: A diagnosis is not a dead end. With proper medical, physical and emotional support, people with Parkinson’s can continue to enjoy full lives.

Parkinson’s Resources

Many resources exist for patients, family members and caregivers of those with Parkinson’s disease. Check out:

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