“The cures we want aren’t going to fall from the sky. We have to get ladders and climb up and get them.” Michael J. Fox
Can you and I make a difference during Parkinson’s Awareness Month (designated for April)?
This blog posting is simply to serve as a brief overview of Parkinson’s, a description of the major Parkinson’s organizations, and ways to get more involved in Parkinson’s awareness (if interested).
What is Parkinson’s Disease? Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder that results from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Parkinson’s has 4 main symptoms: rigidity (stiffness of the limbs and trunk); bradykinesia (slowness of movement); postural instability (impaired balance and coordination); and tremor (trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face). Other symptoms may include: depression; difficulty in swallowing and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; and sleep disruptions. Parkinson’s usually affects people over the age of 60. There are ~1 million people in the USA living with Parkinson’s. The symptoms of Parkinson’s occur gradually over several years, which sometimes makes it difficult to diagnose.
Parkinson’s Prognosis: Parkinson’s is both chronic and progressive. This means that Parkinson’s persists over a long period of time and that the symptoms of Parkinson’s grow worse over time. It is currently not possible to predict which symptoms will affect an individual with Parkinson’s, and even the intensity of the symptoms will vary in each person.
Parkinson’s Treatment/Therapy: There is no cure for Parkinson’s at the present time. The major symptoms of Parkinson’s are treated with several types of medication. Many are started on a dopamine agonist that mimics dopamine in the brain to allow neurons to properly function. Eventually, most are treated with levodopa (combined with carbidopa, which delays the conversion of levodopa into dopamine). Levodopa is converted to dopamine in the brain. Bradykinesia and rigidity respond best to these therapies, while the tremor may be only slightly improved. Problems with balance and other symptoms may not be alleviated at all. Many other drugs and treatment strategies exist for the various symptoms of Parkinson’s (please refer to earlier postings on this blog). In deep brain stimulation (DBS), electrodes are implanted into the brain and connected to a pulse-generating electrical device. DBS can help to alleviate fluctuations of Parkinson’s symptoms when an individual no longer responds well to drug therapy.
The information from above was partly derived from “Parkinson’s Disease: Hope Through Research” (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/parkinsons_disease/detail_parkinsons_disease.htm)
Parkinson’s Disease Organizations
The National Parkinson Foundation (NPF), founded in 1957, is a national organization whose mission is to improve the quality of care for people with Parkinson’s through clinical research, education and outreach on Parkinson’s disease (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Parkinson_Foundation).
The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today.
The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) is a leading national presence in Parkinson’s disease research, education and public advocacy. We are working for the nearly one million people in the US who live with Parkinson’s by funding promising scientific research while supporting people living with Parkinson’s through educational programs and services. Since its founding in 1957, PDF has dedicated over $105 million to fund the work of leading scientists throughout the world and over $44 million to support national education and advocacy initiatives.
American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) was founded in 1961 with the dual purpose to Ease the Burden – Find the Cure for Parkinson’s disease. In that time, APDA has raised and invested more than $86 million to fund research, patient services and education, and elevate public awareness. As the country’s largest Parkinson’s grassroots organization, APDA is here to serve the more than one million Americans with Parkinson’s disease and their families through a nationwide network of Chapters, Information and Referral (I&R) Centers, and support groups.
Davis Phinney Foundation: Dedicated to helping people with Parkinson’s disease to live well today. Provides information, inspiration, tools, resources, and opportunities to people living with PD and care partners to better manage their disease and promote increased engagement in health.
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“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher