Parkinson’s disease has reached new notoriety in the last decade as celebrities have spoken up and stepped up to support research and reduce stigma. From everyone’s favorite former teen wolf, Michael J. Fox, to Alan Alda of M*A*S*H fame. And while the spotlight has helped to further the cause, there is still plenty of misinformation about the disease, which affects nearly 10 million people worldwide.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
“Parkinson’s is a multifaceted disease that stems from a problem in deep brain structures. This problem leads to loss of dopamine in the brain which results in problems with all aspects of movement for patients affected.
“Many people associate some of the dance-like movements of Michael J. Fox to Parkinson’s disease itself, but those movements are most frequently side-effects of medications used to treat the disease.
“Parkinson’s is not only a physical disease – although that is the predominant feature – it can also cause slow thinking, mood changes and sleep problems. This disease impacts all aspects of patients’ lives and that’s why it’s so important to see a specialist who can identify the best treatment options and address all these needs.”
How does it impact a patient?
“This disease can truly affect every aspect of a patient's life and some of the biggest impacts are much less visualized -- like slow movement, and difficulty talking and living their day-to-day life. That’s the part of the disease that can be so disabling.”
More common than one might think
“This disease is common. I tell patients that I'm sure they know someone with Parkinson’s, but may never actually be aware of that person’s diagnosis, because the goal of therapy is to keep all Parkinson's patients maintaining their lifestyle as best they can."
A passion and commitment to care
“My goal is for them to live their life doing the things they want to do with this disease – so this disease will never become their life.
“We still don't have a cure, but the good news is we have so many amazing treatment options patients can usually continue doing the things they love with the people they love and that’s our goal.”
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU School of Medicine
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