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Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox reveals he has Parkinson's disease

Web posted on:
Wednesday, November 25, 1998 2:33:52 PM EST

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Actor Michael J. Fox has been battling Parkinson's disease for the past seven years, and underwent brain surgery last March to lessen the tremors caused by the illness, he confirmed Wednesday.

Fox, 37, made the revelations in an interview with People magazine, published in this Friday's edition. Fox's spokesperson released a statement saying, "It is important to Mr. Fox to convey that he lives a normal, thriving and happy life, and since his diagnosis seven years ago he has been active as an executive producer and star of a very successful television series."

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  • Fox currently stars in the ABC sitcom "Spin City," playing the deputy mayor of New York City. He became a household name in the 1980s when he starred as Alex P. Keaton, the conservative, heartless son of two hippy parents in the TV sitcom "Family Ties." On that success, Fox built a movie career, with blockbuster hits like "Back to the Future" and "The Secret of My Success."

    Parkinson's disease is a progressive degeneration that ultimately renders some patients unable to walk, talk or take care of themselves. Other patients are able to manage their symptoms for many years without becoming disabled. It's estimated 1 million Americans -- including Attorney General Janet Reno and former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali -- suffer from the disease which has no known cause and no cure.

    Fox, who is married to actress Tracy Pollan and has three children, says the illness was diagnosed in 1991 after he noticed a "twitch" in a finger. Tests soon confirmed he was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, according to the magazine. His doctor told People that Fox is now in the "late mild" stage of the disease.

    Drug treatment can help

    A person who uses modern drug treatment can obtain considerable relief from the illness and a much-improved quality of life, according to the American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine. About one-third of the patients do eventually show signs of dementia, the AMA said.

    Last March Fox underwent a thalamotomy -- brain surgery aimed at managing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Since then, the worst of his tremors have been eliminated and he takes the drug Sinemet to control the milder tremors, he said.

    Only a small circle of friends and family have known about the illness, Fox said.

    "His doctors agree that Michael will be able to continue working on 'Spin City,' future projects, and personal commitments for many years to come," the statement released by his spokesperson said, adding that Fox will further discuss the situation in an interview with Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20" to air Friday, December 4.

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