Gilbert Gottfried, the adored abrasive comedian, died Tuesday of a disease identified by his publicist as a rare genetic muscle disorder. Glenn Schwartz, Gottfried’s longtime friend and publicist, said Gottfried, 67, had type II myotonic dystrophy, a type of muscular dystrophy.
It’s unclear when Gottfried was diagnosed with the illness, which has no treatment or cure and typically manifests itself in people in their twenties and thirties.Embed from Getty Images
In a statement, his family said he died after a “long illness.”
The “slowly progressive” condition, according to Elizabeth McNally, director of the Northwestern University Center for Genetic Medicine, is frequently overlooked and undiagnosed.
“People can have symptoms for quite a while even before they notice it,” she said.
Signs and symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or heart muscle weakness, tend to worsen as people age, she says, and so some patients may not be given a diagnosis until they are in their 40s, 50s, or 60s, or they may confuse their symptoms with other age-related health issues.Embed from Getty Images
“The things I always notice first in patients is that they have trouble getting up out of chairs and difficulty going upstairs,” McNally said.
Gottfried died as a result of recurrent ventricular tachycardia, an abnormal rhythm in the heart’s lower chambers.
One in every 8,000 people is diagnosed with either type of the disease, though type II is thought to be more common.