Billy Connolly health: Comedian poignantly addresses his Parkinson’s disease symptoms

Billy Connolly health: Comedian poignantly addresses his Parkinson’s disease symptoms


What is Parkinson's disease?

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Billy Connolly is best known for his stand-up comedy but that doesn’t do his range of artistic talents justice. Billy is also a musician, presenter and actor. He has a special place in British culture and the outpouring of support following his Parkinson’s diagnosis back in 2013 is testament to his widespread appeal.

The comedian has never shied away from talking about life’s many pitfalls.

In a one-off special aired last December, titled Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure, the funnyman addressed his health condition with characteristic frankness.

Referring to his Parkinson’s, he said: “It’s got me and it will get me and it will end me but that’s OK with me.

“I started low and I ended high. Just staying up there, until it is time to stop, seems a natural and good thing to do. It is a good thing to be proud of, I wanted to be a funnyman and I got it.”

The Scottish comedian also paid a touching tribute to his loyal fanbase.

He said: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you all those years. From the beginning when I was a folkie, right through, I couldn’t have done anything without you. You have been magnificent.”

Connolly had to call time on his busy career, which saw him tour around the world and selling out arenas, when Parkinson’s meant he could no longer remember his stories properly.

He went on to describe how the progressive condition had made his routine unsustainable.

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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.

A person with Parkinson’s disease can experience a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms.

The order in which these develop and their severity is different for each individual.

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Tremor – shaking, which usually begins in the hand or arm and is more likely to occur when the limb is relaxed and resting
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia) – physical movements are much slower than normal, which can make everyday tasks difficult and result in a distinctive slow, shuffling walk with very small steps
  • Muscle stiffness (rigidity) – stiffness and tension in the muscles, which can make it difficult to move around and make facial expressions, and can result in painful muscle cramps (dystonia).

Parkinson’s disease can also cause a range of other physical and mental symptoms.

As the NHS explains, Cognitive and psychiatric symptoms include depression, anxiety and dementia.

Am I at risk?

It’s not known why the loss of nerve cells associated with Parkinson’s disease occurs, although research is ongoing to identify potential causes.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation (PF), most experts agree that Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The interactions between genes and the environment can be quite complex.

As the PF explains, some environmental exposures may lower the risk of Parkinson’s, while others may increase it.

“Similarly, some people may have a genetic makeup that makes them more vulnerable to the effects of toxic substances than others.”

Researchers believe that a combination of factors may trigger biological changes that ultimately lead to Parkinson’s.

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