A neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often including tremors. Parkinson’s affects about one million people in the United States and ten million worldwide. The main finding in brains of people with PD is loss of dopaminergic neurons in the area of the brain known as the substantia nigra. Scientists that are looking for the cause of PD continue to search for possible environmental factors, such as toxins, that may trigger the disorder, and they also are studying genetic factors to determine how defective or mutated genes play a role. Hereditary causes of this disease are rare, as only 15 percent of those who have Parkinson’s disease have a family history of it.
Symptoms from Parkinson’s Disease can be particularly embarrassing in social situations and cause discomfort if other people witness the hands of a PD patient shaking. This distress triggers some people suffering from the disease to avoid the company of others except their close friends or family. Drooling, having constipation and incontinence can also occur in advanced stages and some people lose muscle control and end up getting stuck because the process of moving has become too tedious. Participating in social situations can be difficult, as patients with Parkinson’s disease tend to have slurred speech, they fall asleep suddenly and they often have an expressionless look of their faces.
Many people associate shaky hands with Parkinson’s disease, but the most common cause of shaking hands is actually essential tremor. Essential tremor is also the most common neurologic disorder affecting adults, but it’s not well-understood. Doctors think that it is likely caused by a disruption in the normal functioning of the cerebellum. Essential tremor is a nervous system disorder that causes involuntary, rhythmic shaking and it most often affects the hands, though it may also affect the head, voice, arms, or legs and it’s not related to Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes my hands shake and I told my doctor about this, but she is more interested in controlling my diabetes. My dad had Parkinson’s disease at the end of his life and it scares me somewhat, because I saw how it affected Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox. Linda Ronstadt stopped touring because she has Parkinson’s and Alan Alda, Neil Diamond and Robin Williams were also diagnosed with this disease.
We have not developed a cure (meaning it has been eradicated) for Parkinson’s disease as of yet, but there are drugs that can be used to treat the symptoms. For Parkinson’s, most of the time it is not possible currently to eradicate the condition, reverse the damage that has been done, or even stop the symptoms from becoming more severe with time, as the effectiveness of the treatments that we have is somewhat limited. The drug levodopa has been around for treating Parkinson’s for some time now and it is actually very good, particularly in the early stages, although it does have some side effects.
I usually write lighter posts and I apologize for this one being so depressing, but I actually feel much better after writing this. I may be in the early stages of Parkinson’s, or it is also possible that I have Essential tremor, but it is not like my hands are shaking so badly that I can’t drink my coffee. Knowing that most times it is not inherited makes me feel better, as my Type 2 diabetes probably was hereditary. Fandango asked, “If you could choose one — and only one — particular malady, condition, or disease for which a safe and effective treatment was available, what one condition would you choose to treat and why is that your choice?” My answer is Parkinson’s, because I feel that one day this will make me less human.
Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #27 about eradicating a disease.