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Sen. Johnny Isakson announces Parkinson's disease diagnosis

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) released a statement Wednesday saying he was diagnosed in 2013 with the degenerative nervous system disorder.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., arrives in the Capitol for a vote on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., arrives in the Capitol for a vote on Sept. 24, 2013.

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson revealed Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative nervous system disorder, but that he is in good spirits and still intends to run for re-election in 2016.

"Over 1 million Americans have Parkinson's and I am one of them," the Republican lawmaker announced in a press release. He was diagnosed in 2013 and is in the early stages of the disease.

"While I am facing this health challenge head on, I have wrestled with whether to disclose it publicly," the senator said. "In the end, I decided I should handle my personal health challenge with the same transparency that I have championed throughout my career."

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Isakson, 70, first saw a neurologist in 2012 for stiffness in his left arm, and his symptoms now include a "slowed, shuffling gait." Although there is no cure for Parkinson's, there are treatment options to help manage the symptoms, which progress over time. According to Isakson's doctor, Thomas Holmes, the senator's regiment includes physical therapy, exercise, and two medications. 

"Parkinson's patients can experience cognitive impairment -- most commonly, memory issues -- in the later stages of Parkinson's," Dr. Holmes said in the Wednesday press release. "Senator Isakson is in the early stages of Parkinson's and his neurologist has seen absolutely no evidence of cognitive impairment."

The release notes that former Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) also revealed that he had Parkinson's in 1995, and went on to be re-elected to the House five more times before retiring in 2007.  Sen. Isakson has been a member of the Congressional Caucus on Parkinson's Disease since 2005 and Senate co-chair since 2009 -- before his diagnosis -- and has cosponsored annual resolutions recognizing April as Parkinson's Awareness Month.