Neurology Insights

Decoding Parkinson’s Disease

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What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that progresses over time. This disease targets the area of the brain related to the production of dopamine; the chemical messengers that influence movement, behavior, and memory. When particular cells in the brain stop producing dopamine, this can affect balance, movement, speech, and concentration in a negative way.

Early Signs

Some of the key early warning signs of Parkinson’s are stiff movement, imbalance, sleep disorders, tremors, chronic constipation, a loss of sense of smell and a progression of smaller handwriting over time.

Working with a neurologist is the most appropriate approach to diagnosing and treating PD. At Neurology Office, we have a wealth of experience aggressively diagnosing and treating all aspects of this disease.

The Stages of Parkinson's

Because there are varied forms of Parkinson’s; idiopathic, secondary, hereditary and Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome. The progression of Parkinson’s can vary from individual to individual. There are two common scales used to determine the severity of progression:

1)    The Hoehn and Yahr stages: This technique identifies motor symptoms on a scale of 1-5 (1 being mild and 5 being an advanced stage)

2)    The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) identifies non-motor symptoms such as cognitive function and day-to activities

Common myths surrounding Parkinson's

  • Myth: There is a known cause of PD
     It is yet to be discovered what the cause of Parkinson’s is. The current consensus is that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors, some of which vary from individual to individual.
  • Myth: There is a cure
     Although there is not a cure for Parkinson’s at the present time, there are highly effective medications that can work to replace the depletion of dopamine and as well as prevent the breakdown of dopamine. More aggressive treatments such as DBS (deep brain stimulation) would involve brain surgery.
  • Myth: My quality of life will never be the same
     It is possible to maintain an excellent quality of life when dealing with Parkinson’s disease. This will require working with your designated neurologist to effectively treat this disorder through medication and a comprehensive personal physical therapy plan.
  • Example: Patient A.R. is a 72-year-old man who has been experiencing stiffness, slowness, a shuffling gait, and problems with speech and balance for two years. He felt that he would soon be in a wheelchair. However, after only 8 weeks of medication, exercise, and some lifestyle changes, he was dramatically improved. Friends could not believe he was the same person. And now at 7 months of treatment, those same friends don’t believe that he even has Parkinson’s!
  • Myth: Parkinson’s cannot occur in young individuals
     Although rare, YOPD (young-onset Parkinson’s disease) affects individuals under the age of 50. Juvenile Parkinsonism is another disorder that can affect children and teenagers due to high-risk genetic mutations.
  • Myth: Exercise cannot do much for me
     In individuals suffering from Parkinson’s, exercise is crucial in maintaining mobility and improving overall symptoms. Exercise promotes blood flow to the brain as well as increases the efficacy of medications. Speech exercises including reading out loud, singing, and breathing exercises are all very important. Balance exercises, including Tai Chi, can be very helpful in reducing and even eliminating falls. Working with a physical therapist to develop a personalized exercise plan is the best way to maximize your long-term treatment.“As our population ages, and with projections pointing towards one million patients living with Parkinson’s disease by the year 2020, don’t you owe it to yourself or a loved one to find out all you can about Parkinson’s Disease? Paying attention to the signs, such as stiffness, slowness, rigidity, shuffling, and changes in speech and writing can help to speed the correct diagnosis. The earlier a patient begins treatment, the better chance at the best quality of life. – Dr. Joseph KandelIf you have any questions related to Parkinson’s Disease or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help. 

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“To Cure Sometimes, To Heal Often, To Comfort Always”

Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates

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