Parkinson’s Disease

Diseases are sometimes extremely devastating and cruel. Some diseases move very
rapidly while others are slow and painful. Treatments are sometimes useful yet
other times nothing can stop the silent beasts that lurk in the body.

Parkinsons disease is a slow moving disease that slowly corrupts the brain.

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Parkinsons disease (PD) is a chronic motor disorder that causes tremors,
rigidity, slowed body movements, unstable posture and abnormal gait. This
happens when neurons, nerve cells, in a part or the brain called the substantial
nigra gradually die. These cells normally produce dopamine, a chemical that
helps relay messages between areas of the brain that control body movement. The
death of the cells leads to abnormal low levels of dopamine, and causes
difficulty in controlling muscle tension and muscle movement both at rest and
during periods of activity. PD as of now affects about 500,000 Americans, with
about 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It is generally a disease that
affects people of late or middle age at about age 60 however about 5 percent of
patients have early-onset PD and are younger than 40 years old when symptoms
begin. PD is slightly more common in men then women. So far scientists have not
determined the reason why some people develop PD and others do not. Some experts
blame a process called oxidation. During oxidation unstable molecules that are
produced in the brain as a result of its normal chemical reactions which
ultimately damage the brain. Another theory suggests that the effects of toxic
affects of drugs may cause PD. Additional evidence suggests that PD may be
related to environmental toxins especially because some claim that they have
found rates of PD that are higher in rural areas where farming is intense and
residents drink well water. So far PD has not been linked to genetic
abnormality. PD usually begins as a slight tremor of a hand arm or leg. The
tremors usually affect a limb at rest but it also may occur when it is in use.

The tremor may improve when the patient intentionally moves the limb or it may
disappear entirely during sleep. In the hand the tremor is often described as
pill-rolling when it affects the thumb and index finger. As PD progresses
the tremor may become widespread eventually affecting limbs on both sides of the
body. IN addition PD also causes limb rigidity a slowing of intentional body
movement unstable posture and gait problems. When bradykinesia affects the
facial muscles it may cause drooling, disrupts normal eye blinking interferes
with facial expressions. Bradykinesia of the other muscles may affect every day
life. The ability to wash or dress him or her self, to use eating utensils
becomes very difficult. Also to perform necessary household chores such as
washing the dishes or doing laundry also becomes difficult. In many PD patients
a problem with balance and unsteady posture occur. This may make it hard for
them to lower or raise oneself into a chair. Walking may require small shuffling
steps usually without the normal arm swinging motions. Handwriting also becomes
shaky and often illegible. Although there is currently no cute for PD its
symptoms can be treated with several different types of medication. Antioxidants
slow down the progression of existing PD. Dr. Stanley Fahn of Columbia
University has found that PD patients given large doses of oral vitamin C and
synthetic vitamin and delayed the progression of their disease to the point
where they delayed the need for 1-dopa by 2.5 years. The most common
conventional treatment for PD is the use of drugs such as l-dopa medications,
selegiline (deprenyl and eldepryl) which blocks the breakdown of dopamine in the
brain, and anticholinergenic drugs which reduce the amount of acetylcholine
produced in the brain which corrects the imbalance between dopamine and
acetylcholine. Surgical procedures such as pallidotomy are proving successful in
the treatment of PD. Pallidotomy is a procedure in which a small portion of the
globus pallidus, a structure deep within the brain, is surgically destroyed
resulting in improved motor functioning. Doctors are also finding great success
in eliminating tremors by implanting electrodes in the brain. Currently, testing
only allows the electrode to be implanted on one side of the brain so if
patients have tremors on both sides of the body, they must choose which side
they wanted treated. Complementary/alternative therapies for the treatment of
Parkinson’s are becoming more common because they are proving to slow the
progression of the disease in its early stages. Some of these treatments include
supplementation with vitamins C, B and E, co-enzyme Q-10; controlled diet,
relaxation therapy to alleviate stress which aggravates PD; and detoxification
to eliminate as much metal toxicity as possible. A well designed program of
rest, exercise, and physiotherapy can also significantly ameliorate the symptoms
of PD. In conclusion, PD is a frightening disease. There is no true cure for the
disease but it can be slowed down and controlled. Doctors and scientists are
continuing to try and find a cure. Hopefully a cure will be found to end the
pain and suffering of PD patients.


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