M*A*S*H star Alan Alda reveals he has Parkinson's disease

News 01/08/2018

Alan Alda, best known for his roles on M*A*S*H, The West Wing and The Aviator, has revealed he has been battling Parkinson's disease for the past three and a half years.

"I've acted. I've given talks. I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook. I started this new podcast. And I noticed that I had been on television a lot in the last couple of weeks talking about the new podcast, and I could see my thumb twitch in some shots," said the 82-year-old actor on CBS This Morning.

I thought, it's probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that's not where I am.

Parkinson's disease, which impacts movement, has no cure, though there are medications and other options that can help patients with symptoms.

The actor explained he had read a study that acting out one's dreams could be a very early indicator of Parkinson's when no other symptoms show. So he asked doctors for a scan "because I thought I might have it."

"And by acting out your dreams, I mean I was having a dream that someone was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them," Alda spoke. "But what I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife."

He shared that he wanted to know early, because "if there's anything I can do, I want to do it before things start to show up." Months later, he began to notice things like "a little twitch in my thumb."

Alda said "people who are suffering with really severe symptoms. Symptoms can get very bad and their families can suffer." 

"I think my saying something publicly about this today is going to make one thing a little easier," he said.

"I'm not going worry while I'm trying to say something else; I'm not going to be thinking is my thumb on a life of its own. That's just one of the realities of my life."