Learn about Parkinson's disease. Michael J. Fox, Billy Graham and United States Attorney General Janet Reno are among more than one million Americans afflicted with Parkinson's disease.
The Reverend Billy Graham, actor Michael J. Fox and United States Attorney General Janet Reno are among the more than one million afflicted Americans. Although not nearly as many people die from Parkinson's disease as once did, because of new medicines and surgeries, people can still die from complications. Former United States Representative Mo Udall (D-Utah) was one famous person who did. There is still no cure, even though modern medicine does help people cope far better.
Scientists are researching many treatments that offer promise, including genetics. Usually when a young person has Parksinson's he or she inherited the disease.
More than 75% of victims are older than 50, however, and doctors say genetics seem to play no role in their having the disease. Doctors and scientists actually don't know what causes most cases of Parkinson's, although they believe it could be caused by a virus or environmental toxin. Some believe a blow to the head may contribute.
At 55, one person in 1,000 gets Parkinson's but after 65 one in one hundred has Parkinson's. A total of 10-15% of people afflicted are under 40.
Parkinson's is a a progressive and degenarative disorder of the central nervous system. The disease causes tremors, rigidity and loss of control of physical movements. A person who is severely afflicted may not even be able to move at all briefly.
Symptoms can include the trembling of a limb, rigidity of certain body parts, a shuffling gait, lack of facial expression, depression and personality changes. A loved one may notice a spouse having trouble tying a shoelace, being slower than normal getting out of a chair or turning over in bed. Fox noticed a twitching in his little finger on his left hand.
"I can't do things a million times," Fox, who quit his television show, said in People Magazine. "I can only do them once or twice."
Before new medicines and treatments, a person with Parkinson's was three times more likely to die than a person without. Now an afflicted person has an only 1.5 time greater chance of an early death. An affected person, however, may be more likely to get ulcers or pnuemonia. A common saying is "you don't die from Parkinson's, you die with it." Doctors have known people who have led productive lives for 20 years, as long as they had their medicine.
"I'll preach as long as I have the strength," Graham said in 1996, after learning he has Parkinson's.
"I'm still the greatest," Ali said in 1997, after learning he has it.
"I don't feel like I have any impairment," Reno said in 1995.
Medicines can lose their effectiveness after about 10 years and can have side effects. Levadopa was the primary treatment. It caused vomitting, however. Now simemet, which is Levadopa with another medicine, is used. Doctors hope electrodes placed in the brain of an afflicted person may help control tremors and rigidity.
Scientists have transferred cells from other body parts into the brains of monkeys with Parkinson's, and they regained some control of movements and fine motor skills, according to an article in Science Magazine. In humans, however, when cells from adrenal glands are placed in a brain, they tend to die. Pig cells and human cells from fetal tissue have have proved promising, however. Scientists from America and Japan have discovered two genes that sometimes can cause Parkinson's.
Neurologists from Canada, America and Puerto Rico are studying genetics for clues. They are studying the disease at Indiana University and four other universities. The study is being sponsored by the National Institue of Health, according to an article in the Saturday Evening Post. They are seeking 600 non-identical twins for they study and currently have 200, 85% of whom have qualified for the study.
There are 49 hospitals involved in the study in Canada and the United States. Anyone interested in the study may obtain more information at 888-830-6229 in the United States and 317-274-5734 outside of the country. A total of 100,000 Canadians are afflicted with Parkinson's.