Neil Diamond performs onstage during the 2017 Pre-Grammy Gala and Salute to Industry Icons.
Scott Dudelson—Getty Images
By Jamie Ducharme
January 23, 2018

After half a century on the stage, musician Neil Diamond announced on Monday that he’s retiring from touring due to a recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Diamond, who turns 77 on Jan. 24, was about to begin the third leg of his 50th anniversary tour. In a statement posted on his website, the “Sweet Caroline” singer said that while he will no longer perform live, he will continue to write and record for “a long time to come.”

“It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years,” Diamond said in the statement. “My sincerest apologies to everyone who purchased tickets and were planning to come to the upcoming shows.”

Here’s what to know about the condition.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects nervous system function, according to the Mayo Clinic. In people with Parkinson’s, nerve cells in the brain, called neurons, progressively malfunction or die off. This, in turn, prevents the brain from producing enough dopamine, a chemical that acts as a messenger for brain signals that control movement, coordination and other key functions, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Hand tremors are often the first sign that something is wrong, the Mayo Clinic says. Other early symptoms include minor physical impairments — such as a lack of facial expressions, or arms failing to swing as a person walks — and soft or slurred speech. Mobility and speech impairments get more severe as the disease progresses, the Mayo Clinic adds, until eventually daily activities and bodily functions become difficult to complete.

Why do people get Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is most commonly seen in adults older than 50 and is more frequent in men than women, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA).

Doctors aren’t totally sure why people get Parkinson’s, though there is evidence that genetics may play a role in some cases, according to the APDA. Other risk factors may include repeated head trauma and exposure to certain chemicals or heavy metals.


How is Parkinson’s disease treated?

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, although medications that mimic or enhance the effects of dopamine, in conjunction with physical therapy and diet and exercise interventions, may help reduce symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. In advanced cases, doctors may also implant signal-carrying electrical sensors into the brain in hopes of mitigating some symptoms, the Mayo Clinic adds.

Though it can’t be cured, Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes. That said, complications stemming from the disease — including decreased motor function and impaired swallowing — can shorten a person’s lifespan.

Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.

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