Parkinson's Disease

Close to a million people are living with Parkinson’s disease in the United States. Many aspects of this degenerative movement disorder remain a mystery, and a cure has not yet been found. Yet there are a series of medications and treatments available that work to minimize its potentially debilitating symptoms.
Parkinson’s is characterized by the loss of important nerve cells in the brain. These cells produce dopamine, which is a chemical that helps to control movement and coordination. When this dopamine production decreases, your motor skills are greatly affected.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are trembling or stiffness of the limbs, slowness of movement, changes in posture, speech and handwriting, and lack of balance and muscle coordination. Each of these symptoms in and of themselves likely do not signal Parkinson’s. That’s why it’s important to be evaluated by a physician with specialized knowledge of the disease.
Diagnosing the disease
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, and have concerns that they may indicate Parkinson’s, you should consult with your physician about receiving a proper diagnosis. The disease is diagnosed following a careful investigation into your medical history and a through neurological examination. Certain tests may be performed to rule out other root causes of your symptoms, which may include heart attack, stroke, or thyroid and liver disorders.
Activities such as increased exercise, healthy diet and physical therapy can be helpful at any stage of the disease to maintain or enhance mobility and strength. Since the disease frequently disrupts balance, an occupational therapist may be consulted to train the patient on various walking and movement techniques that help in avoiding falls. Furniture may be rearranged to accommodate more efficient travel around the house. The therapist may also assist patients with additional training on daily living activities, such as dressing, bathing or eating. Tai chi is also beneficial, and is incorporated into the treatments offered by our physical therapists.
Several medications may be prescribed, some of which activate dopamine production or mimic its effects in your brain, and others that help to minimize side effects, such as tremors. In extreme cases, neurologic surgery may be recommended.
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