Parkinsons Disease 101: Quick Explanation of Causes and Treatment

parkinsons disease

Well I am dr. Eric all Skog from the Mayo Clinic I'm a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic I am active in the section of movement disorders where we see a lot of people with Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a very common disorder there are about a million people in the United States with Parkinson's disease and that makes up a big portion of our practice in the

movement disorders clinic what is Parkinson's disease this is a neurodegenerative condition

that it commonly occurs in people middle-aged and beyond sometimes it occurs in younger people such as the people that are in the public domain Muhammad Ali Michael J Fox and

others but most often it occurs later in life Parkinson's disease being a neurodegenerative

condition develops without a known cause although there is rather substantial research that is

focusing on the cause of Parkinson's disease and we will talk more about that in a few minutes

however the focus and the movement disorders clinic here as at other major medical centers

and clinics is to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease which we can do fairly well up to a
 point not everything is perfectly responsive sometimes later in life there are other problems

 that get superimposed but I think overall we do pretty well treating both the movement

problems of Parkinson's disease as well as some of the antecedent conditions that occur with it

what are the movement problems well the problems that everyone knows about our tremor

although it turns out that the majority of tremor conditions are not due to Parkinson's disease

 but other disorders the most common tremor condition is a condition called essential tremor so if someone has tremor that doesn't necessarily mean they have Parkinson's disease and in

fact it is more likely they have tremor due to something else tremor is just one of the

components of Parkinson's disease also often keeping company with that is slowness of

movement we positions called brady kinesia stiffness of the limbs that physicians call rigidity as well as gait problems sometimes there is imbalance but the prototypical gait problem is a

slowed shuffling gait with reduced arm swing also a component of Parkinson's disease relates

 to loss of many automatic movements that are performed without even thinking about it

such as blinking or swinging your arms when you walk or gesturing when you talk those things tend to get attenuated with Parkinson's disease on the other hand all of those things that I've

 just described tend to respond really quite well to the medications that we have to treat

Parkinson's disease and that's that's the good news and that's gratifying for both physicians as

myself as well as patients sometimes down the road and to variable extents other problems

occur not all of the motor symptoms of movement symptoms respond perfectly they

respond much better during the early years after 10 15 or 20 years they're not as complete in their response and that relates to the natural history of Parkinson's disease also there's a

portion of people who over time develop some problems of their autonomic nervous system

 what is the autonomic nervous iDEN ah McMurray system is that internal nervous system

that regulates blood pressure Paul's bowel movements and all of those internal things that we

 don't think about but occur automatically so with passage of time some people with

Parkinson's disease get constipated in fact a lot of people with Parkinson's disease are

constipated they may have trouble passing their urine or controlling very urine they may

have problems with their blood pressure plummeting to low levels when they stand up these are treatable conditions but the treatment is different than what doctors used to treat the

movement problems of Parkinson's disease what else occurs in Parkinson's disease well there's

a portion of people that develop thinking and memory problems and that happens over time

usually that's not present in their early years but happens is one ages and yours paths that is

less treatable but there are medicines that help with that as well as the occasional

complications from medications plus Parkinson's disease such as hallucinations and delusions

fortunately those are fairly treatable most of the time but obviously this gets more and more

complicated and challenges physicians if these problems are occurring together what about

research into Parkinson's disease well it turns out that to date we do not have good medicines where there is any proof of slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease but I should

mention that with the advent of the primary medicine that was used to treat Parkinson's

disease at the very inception of this modern era levodopa or carbidopa levodopa brand-name

Sinemet every study that's looked at longevity found a substantial increase in longevity time lock to the initiation of levodopa therapy back about 40 years ago so that's very gratifying

and presumably levodopa carbidopa levodopa is not getting at the underlying problem that

Parkinson's disease but as mobilized people kept them active and that ability excuse me to

remain active throughout the course of their life has added rather remarkably to longevity so

 for example here in Olmsted County Minnesota where the Mayo Clinic is located the longevity rates based on actuarial tables are reduced only about three years with Parkinson's

disease so that's pretty good I think for example if your actuarial prediction indicates that you

would live to about age 81 as a of ladies would live too you might only live to age 78 so that's

 still pretty close although it's not quite on target what about research directed at what causes

 Parkinson's disease well there is a a remarkable set of discoveries that I think now are making at least me optimistic that we are on the right track to discover the cause there is a protein

that is a natural protein that accumulates in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease we

don't identify this by way of any tests but if people died from whatever they died from and

one looks at their brains you can see an accumulation of this natural protein called alpha

synuclein then it's thought that the aggregation of natural alpha synuclein plays a fundamental role in what causes parkinson's disease the research that's ongoing is now directed at refining

our understanding of that and if it does turn out to be alpha synuclein then there hopefully will be strategies for preventing the aggregation and reducing the production where is that

occurring well in many centers around the world at Mayo Scottsdale Jacksonville and

Rochester there's substantial research that's directed at this overall problem Mayo Jacksonville's bench researchers have had a number of very important discoveries that have

focused on alpha synuclein and with the epidemiology research that's being done here in

Rochester we have collaborated with our colleagues at the other two Mayo centers and work is

 proceeding that hopefully someday will translate into an effective treatment for not just

slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease but halting the progression in returning people to normality thank you very much. See also Signs of Colon Cancer 6 Silent Signs You Need to Start Screening as Soon as Possible

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