Muhammad Ali: Everything You Need To Know About Parkinson’s Disease

27th May 1963: Supremely confident American boxer Cassius Clay holds up five fingers in a prediction of how many rounds it will take him to knock out British boxer Henry Cooper. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)

The now late, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder called Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in 1984 at the age of 42.

Because his is one of the most high-profile cases of Parkinson’s, there are a lot of questions surrounding his condition. Is boxing responsible? Did repeated blows to his head lead to the disease?

Many people know about Parkinson’s. But most are confused about what exactly causes it.

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Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD):

Tremor: can occur at rest, in the hands, limbs, or can be postural
Muscular: stiff muscles, difficulty standing, difficulty walking, difficulty with bodily movements, involuntary movements, muscle rigidity, problems with coordination, rhythmic muscle contractions, slow bodily movement, or slow shuffling gait
Sleep: daytime sleepiness, early awakening, nightmares, or restless sleep
Whole body: fatigue, dizziness, poor balance, or restlessness
Cognitive: amnesia, confusion in the evening hours, dementia, or difficulty thinking and understanding
Speech: impaired voice, soft speech, or voice box spasms
Mood: anxiety or apathy
Nasal: distorted sense of smell or loss of smell
Urinary: dribbling of urine or leaking of urine
Facial: jaw stiffness or reduced facial expression
Also common: blank stare, constipation, depression, difficulty swallowing, drooling, falling, fear of falling, loss in contrast sensitivity, neck tightness, small handwriting, trembling, unintentional writhing, or weight loss

What Causes PD?

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, 50,000-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year, adding to the one million people who currently have PD. Most people who get the disease are older than 60, but about 15 percent are diagnosed before age 50.

Although doctors don’t know what exactly causes Parkinson’s, they believe it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, in about 5 to 10 percent of patients, there is a strong family history of the disease.

The first sign of Parkinson’s disease is usually a tremor in one hand, but over time people with the condition find it harder to…