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About 60,000 Americans diagnosed each year with Parkinson's disease

Citrus County Chronicle - 3/28/2017

Dr. Richard Hoffman

Special to the Chronicle

April has been designated Parkinson's Disease (PD) Awareness Month. James Parkinson, who was born in the month of April, was the English physician who first clinically defined this condition in 1817 and called it the "Shaking Palsy."

Since then, neurologists have classified PD as a movement disorder, characterized by four key movement (motor) symptoms that include the "shaking" (tremor) described by Dr. Parkinson in addition to muscle rigidity and stiffness, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), and impaired balance and coordination (postural instability).

In the 1960s it was discovered that these motor symptoms were caused by the death and malfunction of nerve cells in a section of the brain that produces a chemical called dopamine. This chemical sends messages that control movement and coordination. However, more recently it has been determined that many other parts of the brain and nervous system are affected by this chronic and progressively disabling disorder.

Today, PD is considered much more than just a movement disorder. Non-motor symptoms of this disease may include pain, dementia or confusion, fatigue, sleep disturbances, dizziness, depression, constipation, cognitive changes, fear and anxiety, as well as urinary problems. Like many other neurological disorders, the cause(s) of PD are not known, but both environment and genetic factors are thought to be involved.

There currently is no cure for PD, but numerous medications and other treatment options, including surgery, are available to improve symptoms and the quality of life for people with this disease.

In addition, at least 23 medications are currently in development for PD. While the disease process may begin years earlier, the average age of diagnosis for PD is 60 years, but many individuals are diagnosed in their 50s and 40s, or even younger.

It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million Americans are living with PD and approximately 60,000 Americans are newly diagnosed each year.

There are several national organizations that can provide more information, one of which is the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF). Visit the website at or call the free "Helpline" at 800-457-6676 (Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Retired pharmacist/medical writer Richard P. Hoffmann and his wife, Margaret, who has young-onset Parkinson's disease, are research advocates for the PDF and will provide an informational display and free materials about PD at Lakes Region Library in Inverness during April. In addition, they will discuss Parkinson's

disease and its management from 9-10:30 a.m.Monday, April 10, at the Citrus Memorial Health Foundation YMCA in Lecanto.


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