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Hope for those with Parkinson

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January 8th, 2009

Promising Hope for Parkinson Sufferers? According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month, people with advanced Parkinson's disease who received deep brain stimulation showed greater improvement in movement and quality of life after six months than those treated with medication. Parkinson s disease affects close to 2 million Americans with over 50,000 new cases yearly. The average age of onset is 65 (though it can occur younger, i.e. Michael J. Fox). This study was the first study to actually include older people who are in the majority among sufferers. The study looked at implanting electrodes that sent electrical stimulation to specific parts of the brain in order to reduce involuntary movements and tremors. The study also showed that the deep brain stimulation patients also had almost four times the risk of suffering a serious adverse event like depression, infections, falls or heart problems. Although most side effects could be treated, one patient suffered a brain hemorrhage and died. Previous studies also have largely excluded older patients, who account for the majority of those with the disease. About 25 percent of the more than 250 patients in the new study were 70 or older. The new research is the first to show that deep brain stimulation works as well in older patients as in younger ones. Last year, our health section of the Erickson Tribune did a story on Parkinson s Disease that I am summarizing below for your information. Parkinsons Disease What Older Adults Should Know ' ' Parkinson s disease affects nerve cells in the brain that control muscle movement. These nerve cells, which produce a chemical called dopamine that is vital to muscle movement, become damaged or destroyed. The exact causes are unknown, but scientists believe it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Signs and Symptoms ' ' Parkinson s disease is chronic and progressive, meaning its symptoms usually worsen over time. Symptoms vary in type and intensity from person to person. Typical early symptoms of Parkinson s disease are slight tremors, soft mumbling speech, fatigue, depression and other emotional changes, or difficulty sleeping. ' ' The onset of Parkinson s disease can be subtle and actually mimics the aging process; so older adults may not realize at first that the symptoms they are experiencing are related to Parkinson s disease, says Ruth Hagestuen, R.N., Director of Field Services for the ' Na... Parkinson Foundation. ' Later symptoms include difficulty chewing or swallowing, very slow movement, and balance problems. ' ' Many times older adults are taking medications that cause Parkinson s-like symptoms, says Vrinda Suneja, M.D., Erickson Health physician at Fox Run, an Erickson community in Novi, Mich. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history and medications best. Sometimes a simple medication adjustment is needed to avoid troublesome symptoms. Parkinson s and Medications ' ' There is no cure for Parkinson s disease, but medications are available to control symptoms. The most common is levodopa combined with carbidopa (Sinemet). This combination helps increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. There are also drugs that prevent the breakdown of dopamine. ' ' The dosing schedule for Parkinson s medications can be complicated. The fine-tuning of medications in Parkinson s disease is a huge concern, says Hagestuen. Communication must be consistent between individuals, families, doctors, and institutions to avoid any disruption in dosing or drug interactions if a new medication is introduced. ' ' There are currently no medications that slow the progression of Parkinson s. The goal is to get a smooth distribution of medicine throughout the body in order to control symptoms, Hagestuen says.

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