69. Parkinson’s Disease: Options to Consider

When Louise first realized that her husband’s hands shook while at rest for no reason, she suspected Parkinson’s disease. She knew that the disease was also called the shaking palsy, so she asked a doctor about it. Other visible signs revealed that Louise’s husband did, in fact, have Parkinson’s disease. The four main symptoms are:

  1. Tremor. This usually starts in the head, but can start in a foot or in the jaw.

  2. Rigidity. The person has stiffness of the limbs and trunk.

  3. Slow movement and loss of automatic and spontaneous movement. The person may not be able to wash or dress quickly or easily.

  4. Impaired balance and coordination. This can lead to a stooped posture, a shuffing gait, and falls.

Parkinson’s disease results from the degeneration of cells in the part of the brain that produces dopamine, a substance nerves need to function properly. Great strides have been made in treatment, offering new hope for the nearly one million middle-aged and older people who are affected. In most people, the cause is unknown.

Treatment includes:

  1. Medications such as bromocriptine, levodopa, and selegiline. For many people, these drugs control symptoms.

  2. Neurosurgery and direct electrical brain stimulation.

  3. Physical therapy and speech therapy.

Other treatments try to make the person with Parkinson’s more comfortable. Warm baths and massages, for example, can help prevent muscle rigidity.

Here are some other helpful hints.

  1. Take care to maintain a safe home environment. Replace razor blades with electric shavers, use nonskid rugs, etc.

  2. Simplify tasks. Replace tie shoes with loafers, use elastic waist pants, etc.

  3. Include high-fiber foods in the diet (to add bulk) and drink lots of fluids to prevent constipation. If taking levodopa, limit protein in the diet as advised by a doctor. A high protein diet can make levodopa less effective.

  4. Remain as active as possible. Do the activities and exercises as advised.

  5. Get professional help to relieve depression, if necessary.

Chapter 2
  1. Major Medical Conditions:

  2. Prevention, Detection, and Treatment