7 Celebs With Serious Medical Conditions

7 Stars With Medical Conditions


Disease and disability don't discriminate.  Even the rich and famous get sick.  No amount of power, money or influence will prevent or cure a disease for which there is no prevention or cure.  Unlike many of us, however, celebs have beat incredible odds to make the big bucks so they can afford health insurance and the best treatments.  (Even under ObamaCare, lots of people are still uninsured.)

Here are 7 celebrities with illness.

Celeb #1: Mandy Patinkin

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."  Yes, that Mandy Patinkin has keratoconus.

Keratoconus,is a rare (autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive) degenerative eye condition which renders the cornea or outermost layer of the eye cone shaped.  Keratoconus results in rapidly deteriorating vision which typically begins in the second decade of life. 

Although Pattinken is often photographed with glasses, keratoconus is most often treated with rigid or hard contacts followed by later corneal transplantion.  In other words, glasses don't help with keratoconus.

Promising new advances in the treatment of keratoconus include the BostonSight® PROSE or Boston scleral lens.  By means of a fluid reservoir, this scleral lens acts as a corneal prosthesis.

Celeb #2: Nick Jonas

Pop star Nick Jonas--the youngest (and now "hottest") member of the Jonas Brothers--has type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas doesn't produce insulin; insulin is needed to convert sugar to energy.  Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in youth.  People with type 1 diabetes receive insulin shots.  About 0.25 percent of all children have type 1 diabetes.

Celeb #3: Tom Hanks

In 2007, Halle Berry famously claimed that she had converted her diabetes from type 1 to type 2--an impossibility which incited the ire of the diabetes community.  Berry probably had type 2 diabetes the whole time and was initially misdiagnosed.  Tom Hanks, however, was properly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is usually adult onset--although kids get it, too--and happens when your body doesn't produce enough insulin or becomes insulin resistant.  Type 2 diabetes usually happens in people who are overweight and affects about 10 percent of Americans. 

First-line treatment for type 2 diabetes is diet and weight loss.  For those who fail to control their diabetes with such lifestyle modification, the oral medication metformin is given.  Most people who live long enough with type 2 diabetes eventually need insulin shots.

Celeb #4: Billy Bob Thornton

According to IMDb and various other sources, Oscar-winning actor Billy Bob "some folks call it a sling blade" Thornton has celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  

Celiac disease is an autoimmune-mediated disorder of absorption.  It's a severe allergy to gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye.  After eating gluten-rich foods, people with such severe gluten sensitivity experience abdominal discomfort, excess flatus, diarrhea and weight loss.  It's estimated that up to 1 percent of white Americans have the disease.

Celeb #5: David Letterman

 In 2000, late night titan David Letterman underwent heart bypass surgery to unblock his coronary arteries.  Letterman has coronary artery disease which kills 1 in 4 Americans.

Celeb #6: Jack Osbourne

"Prince of Darkness" progeny and Dancing with the Stars finalist, Jack Osbourne, has multiple sclerosis (MS).

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord.  This disease damages the myelin sheets encasing nerves and thus screws with signal transmission.  Such destruction results in visual disturbances, muscle weakness, problems with thinking and more.  In its late stages, MS interferes with breathing and kills by pneumonia. 

Although there is no cure for MS, medicines may slow its progress and help with symptoms. 

Celeb #7: Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox, of Family Ties and Back to the Future fame, has Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease of the nerves which results in muscle stiffness, muscle twitching, a classic "pill-rolling" tremor, and various other symptoms.   Some people with Parkinson's disease die of swallowing impairment which leads to aspiration pneumonia.  With aspiration pneumonia, food gets stuck in the lungs and causes deadly infection.

Although there is no cure, drugs can help with Parkinson's symptoms.

7 Stars With Medical Conditions: Parting Thoughts

As many of us can attest to, living with illness is no fun.  However, many celebs live with illness gracefully and serve as spokesmen and role models for their conditions.  For example, you're all probably aware of the Michael J. Fox Foundation which is dedicated for finding a cure for Parkinson's disease.  Finally, many celebs with disease, like Jack Osbourne and Nick Jonas, are physically fit and busy working and entertaining.

Selected Sources

Biswell R. Chapter 6. Cornea. In: Riordan-Eva P, Cunningham ET, Jr. eds. Vaughan & Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011. Accessed May 08, 2015.

Travis AC, Saltzman JR. Chapter 33. Wireless Capsule Endoscopy & Deep Small Bowel Enteroscopy. In: Greenberger NJ, Blumberg RS, Burakoff R. eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012. Accessed May 09, 2015.

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