According to the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Health is one of first hospitals in the nation to offer a new treatment for Parkinson’s patients. It is the most advanced treatment to date. It is an implantable deep brain stimulation device that sends electrical stimulation to designated areas in the brain, blocking signals that cause the trembling in Parkinson’s patients. According to Fernando Quintero’s article in the Orlando Sentinel, this technology was approved by the FDA in 2002, but has only been used experimentally until three weeks ago when the first patient, Michael Medina Gonzalez received the implant in Orlando Florida. The procedure involves implanting four thin wires with electrodes in the brain, which is then extended under the skin from the head, down through the neck and into the chest area, where a neurotransmitter is implanted under the skin. The device is said to give the Parkinson patient relief from the trembling. Three weeks after the surgery, Mr. Gonzalez relates that his quality of life has greatly improved.
Parkinson’s disease is a complex neurological disorder that is degenerative and debilitating. Currently there is no cure, but advances in innovative new treatments are being made at an increasingly fast pace. Credit for these advances is due primarily to organizations such as the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Parkinson’s disease generally affects people age 60 and over, however it can and does affect some age 40 and under individuals. When this occurs it is referred to as YOPD, or Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. The most famous example I know of diagnosed with YOPD is Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991 at age 30. Since then, he has been a staunch advocate for Parkinson’s Research and his Foundation has raised millions of dollars used for Parkinson’s Research with hopes to find a cure in the next decade.
The symptom that usually appears first in most patients is a small, almost unrecognizable resting tremor in either a finger, or hand and usually occurs only on one side of the body. Resting tremor means the tremor occurs only when the limb is at rest, (not in motion). Next, slowness of movement called (bradykinesia) affects walking and the person’s steps become shorter and resemble shuffling. Rigidity is another cardinal symptom which occurs as the disease progresses. Stiffness and pain occurs, sometimes first in the neck and shoulder area. Limbs become stiff and lack movement. Difficulty in getting up from a chair or bed becomes difficult. Even turning over in bed becomes painful and slow hindering restful sleep in a lot of patients. Other symptoms can include postural instability, lack of expression in the face and slurred, soft speech, (mumbling). Depression and anxiety are also prominent in a large number of Parkinson patients. There are many other secondary symptoms related to Parkinson’s. These symptoms affect each person differently and in varying degrees. No two patient’s symptoms are the same. Progression of the disease is also different in each patient.
To date, there are various forms of treatments which work to alleviate or lessen symptoms. The most common treatment in the early stages is drug therapy. Patients are given dopamine agonists which are in the form of pills. They act to replace the dopamine in the brain that is diminished and thus cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s. A few popular dopamine agonists prescribed in the early stages of Parkinson’s include Mirapex, Requip, Sinemet, and Azilect. Deep brain stimulation is a surgery that is available which works to relieve some of the dyskinesias (exaggerated movements) caused by the oral drug therapies taken to relieve symptoms. Not all patients are candidates for DBS (deep brain stimulation).
Other non-drug therapies include exercise, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological therapy.
I feel confident that a cure for Parkinson’s and other similar diseases are on the brink in the near future. Let’s keep praying for a cure and for the advocates who are working hard to convince Government agencies, local and national to increase funds for research. We can do our part as citizens and potential victims ourselves by supporting foundations such as the Michael J Fox Foundation and others with our monetary donations and/or speaking up on behalf of research to our local Politicians or anyone who can help the cause. Much more information on Parkinson’s disease is available on the sources listed at the end of the article.
Orlando hospital pioneers latest deep-brain-stimulation device for Parkinson’s patients – OrlandoSentinel.com
Living With Parkinson’s – About Parkinson’s – Parkinson’s 101 – The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research