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.
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.
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 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
Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson's Disease however there are medications, therapies and surgical treatments available to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson's. Every patient is different and what works best for one may not work for another. Each patient is evaluated on an individual basis and we work with our Neurology partners and the patient to determine the best treatment option for the patient and their families.
Various medications are available that provide different benefits. You can read more about each medication by clicking on it.
- DopamiAmantadinene agonists
- COMT inhibitors
- Anticholinergic medications
For many patients with Parkinson's, desired results are achieved with medication and they are effective for maintaining a good quality of life. However as the disorder progresses, some patients develop variability in their response to treatment. There are various surgery treatments being done to treat symptoms of Parkinson's. Our Parkinson's expert will review each patient on a case by case basis and will weigh the benefits of surgery against the risks, taking into consideration the patient's symptoms and overall health. At SCCNS we believe that the safest and most minimally invasive approach be used to treat patients with Parkinson's. One such treatment that we provide is Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) offers a safer alternative to other surgeries such as pallidotomy andthalamotomy. DBS utilizes small electrodes which are implanted to provide and electrical impulse to the targeted areas of the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause Parkinson's symptoms and tremor.
For a brochure or more information on DBS as a treatment, please contact our office.