US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has Parkinson's disease

Reverend Jesse Jackson (left) looks to Reverend Al Sharpton (right) at a Washington march in August 2017.
Reverend Jesse Jackson (left) looks to Reverend Al Sharpton (right) at a Washington march in August 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (AFP) - American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson announced on Friday (Nov 17) that he has the degenerative neurological disease Parkinson's.

The 76-year-old, who once worked with Martin Luther King Jr for the cause of equal rights for African Americans, and currently heads a Chicago non-profit organisation, said it has become "increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks".

"My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor," Jackson said in a statement.

"After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson's disease, a disease that bested my father."

Jackson said he would make "lifestyle changes", concentrating on physical therapy to slow the disease's progression, and working on his memoir.

He also said he would use his diagnosis as an opportunity to educate others about the neurological illness, with a largely unknown cause and no cure, that afflicts seven to 10 million people worldwide.

A number of other notable figures have been afflicted with the disease, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox and Pope John Paul II.