Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons Disease

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed each year adding to the estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer from the disease.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that is caused by degeneration of nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls movement. These nerve cells die or become impaired, losing the ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine. Usually, dopamine operates in a delicate balance with other neurotransmitters to help coordinate the millions of nerve and muscle cells involved in movement. Without enough dopamine, (loss of approximately 60-80%), this balance is disrupted, resulting in various impairments such as tremor (trembling in the hands, arms, legs and jaw); rigidity (stiffness of the limbs); slowness of movements; and impaired balance and coordination. These are considered the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson's.

SCCNS has a movement disorder specialist on staff and a team of partner neurologists available to provide our Parkinson's patients with the highest standard of care. We also have contacts at various support groups throughout Southern California if our patients or their families would like to meet with others who have Parkinson's or other disorders.

Causes

The cause of Parkinson's essentially remains unknown. However, scientists and other health care experts continue to seek answers and explore theories while continuing to make advances to better understand various movement disorders and hopefully manage them in the future.

Symptoms

There are prevalent signs related to Parkinson's.

  • Tremor, or involuntary and rhythmic movements of the hands, arms, legs and jaw.
  • Muscle rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs – most common in the arms, shoulders or neck.
  • Gradual loss of spontaneous movement, which often leads to decreased mental skill or reaction time, voice changes, decreased facial expression, etc.
  • Gradual loss of automatic movement, which may lead to decreased blinking, decreased frequency of swallowing, and drooling.
  • A stopped, flexed posture with bending at the elbows, knees and hips.
  • Unsteady walk or balance.
  • Depression or dementia.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can be difficult because there is no standard diagnostic test that can be done to identify Parkinson's disease. We work with various neurologists in Southern California to identify and treat Parkinson's patients. Conventional methods for diagnosis include:

  • Presence of two of the three primary symptoms.
  • The absence of other neurological signs upon examination
  • No history of other possible causes of Parkinsonism such as the use of tranquilizer medications, head trauma or stroke.
  • Responsiveness to Parkinson's medications

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