Parkinson’s Disease

Medication-Free Ways To Feel Better With Parkinson’s Disease

Getting a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. This neurodegenerative disorder affects movement and doesn’t have a cure, but with the right medications and complementary or alternative therapies, symptoms can be managed.  Incorporating medication-free ways into Parkinson’s treatment can help people living with the condition improve their health and well-being, along with preserving physical function and enhancing quality of life.  Music therapy   A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Neurology found that playing and listening music can be beneficial for managing the movement and emotional aspects of Parkinson’s disease. Rhythm enhances connections between the motor and auditory systems, and areas that involve rhythm perception are closely related to those that regulate movement. A regular rhythmic pulse stimulates activity in the putamen, a part of the brain that is involved in learning and motor control. Rhythm also influences the kinetic system and facilitates movement synchronization, coordination, and regularization.  Another study that is being conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine is examining the effects of therapeutic instrumental music performance (TIMP) on Parkinson’s patients. TIMP uses specific movement and rhythm combinations to “reprogram” certain brain frequencies.   According to one of the study conductors, Parkinson’s most likely affects beta frequencies, which are generated when the brain is actively engaged in mental activities. The concept behind the study is to use external rhythms to target beta frequencies and restore them …

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5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease and How to Treat Them 

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms develop slowly over the course of several years. Although there are four main motor symptoms that occur with Parkinson’s, not every patient will experience symptoms in the same order and in the same way. However, there are patterns of symptom progression that most patients will experience.  The most commonly used scale to assess the stage of Parkinson’s disease is the Hoehn and Yahr scale. Named for its authors, Margaret Hoehn and Melvin Yahr, the scale was originally published in 1967 in the journal Neurology and described the progression of Parkinsonism, collection of signs and symptoms found in Parkinson’s disease, in five stages. The scale has since been modified to include stage 1.5 and stage 2.5 to account for the intermediate course of Parkinson’s.  The Hoehn and Yahr scale originally classified the five stages in the following manner:  Stage I. Unilateral involvement only, usually with minimal or no functional impairment.   Stage II. Bilateral or midline involvement, without impairment of balance.   Stage III. Mild to moderate bilateral impairment with some postural instability. Stage IV. Fully developed, severely disabling disease; the patient is still able to walk and stand unassisted but is markedly incapacitated.   Stage V. …

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Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

One day, you’re relaxing on the couch and notice your hand is shaking. Has it always done that, or is it new? But when you go to pick something up, you notice the shaking stops. You may have noticed other minor changes like your movement is slowing down or your limbs feel unusually stiff. You could pass all of these instances off as being dehydrated or needing more sleep, but these symptoms put together could be early indicators of Parkinson’s disease.   What is Parkinson’s disease?  Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative condition that is caused by damage to nerve cells in the substantia nigra, the area of the brain that controls movement. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms generally develop slowly over the course of several years. Because the disease is so diverse, not every person with Parkinson’s will experience the same progression of symptoms as others. Scientists believe that Parkinson’s is caused by certain genetic and environmental factors.   Symptoms of Parkinson’s usually start appearing in middle or late life. Because a diagnosis can take months, or even years, it’s not usually diagnosed until age 60. A diagnosis younger than 50 is called young-onset Parkinson’s. Nearly one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease, and about 60,000 Americans …

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Can dogs detect disease? Studies say…

Can “Spot” spot cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and more? We’ve rounded up some of what the initial research shows so far — and it’s not just fluff. “The full potential of dogs to detect human disease is just beginning to be understood,” says Claire Guest, chief executive of a U.K.-based organization called Medical Detection Dogs, which trains “biodetection dogs” (involved in some of the research cited below). “If all diseases have an odor, which we have reason to believe they do, we can use dogs to identify them.” Sniffing out the latest studies Several media outlets reported this fall that scientists are currently training dogs to sniff out the scent of malaria, which is on the rise and especially deadly in children. In October, researchers announced at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference that two dogs correctly detected malaria in children (who appeared healthy, without symptoms) 70 percent of the time. Following this small “proof of concept” study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers will continue to work on training biodetection dogs and also try to develop a device that could one day mimic what the dog’s nose does — pick up scents or compounds associated with …

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Prevention of Parkinson's Disease - Parkinson's Freezing

Parkinson’s Freezing Triggers and Fall Prevention

Gait freezing and falls are common among people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Take a closer look at patients’ experiences, common triggers of freezing and tips that may help prevent falls. What is known about freezing and falls? Researchers and movement experts have been studying gait freezing in people with PD for several decades. The exact cause of freezing is unknown, but experts believe it’s caused by PD’s effects on parts of the brain that control motor movement, such as the basal ganglia or part of the right side of the brain. Common triggers of gait freezing may include: Crowded environments or tight spaces Turning corners, going around furniture or objects, or changing direction Entering doorways, crossing over thresholds (especially from outdoors to inside), or changes in flooring (for example, from tile or wood to carpet) Distraction or multi-tasking, such as walking and talking or carrying objects Anxiety (initial research shows that this common symptom in people with PD may play a role in freezing, but further studies are needed) Some tips and tricks may help “thaw” episodes of freezing (but every person is different, so talk with a movement specialist or physical therapist about what might work for you): Visual cues — Giving yourself a visual hint …

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Squash soup and healthy fall foods

Fall feast: 3 ‘Parkinson’s-friendly’ recipes + cooking tips

Are you living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and looking for some dishes for Thanksgiving or another fall feast? Or just to boost your appetite? Our friends at Community Servings — a Boston-area nutrition and meal delivery organization for people with health conditions — handpicked three tasty recipes with a healthy balance of nutrients for people with PD. Plus, they’re sharing some quick pointers to help you keep on cooking with your condition. 3 awesome autumn recipes “These are all high in fiber, have healthy fat, a moderate amount of protein, and are pretty easy to prepare,” says Alison Schlisser, a registered dietician and manager of Nutrition Services at Community Servings. Butternut Squash & Black Bean Salad – This earthy salad features a flavorful combo of beans, squash, feta cheese, lemon juice and cilantro (with a dash of pumpkin pie spice, to boot). Serve it warm or at room temperature as a side dish or main course. Mediterranean Sweet Potatoes – The stars of this vegan dish are roasted sweet potatoes and crispy chickpeas (spiced with cumin, cinnamon and paprika), plus a creamy tahini (sesame) sauce. This could add a nice kick to your Thanksgiving menu! Delicata Squash & Lentil Soup – Delicatas are the long, …

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A possible Parkinson’s disease/melanoma link? Time for a skin check

Now that summer has passed, have you had your skin examined? Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may have an increased risk for melanoma, so skin screenings are extra-important. Take a look at recent research and get some tips on monitoring your moles and skin. Studies show… A 2017 Mayo Clinic study found that people with either PD or melanoma are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of the other disease. The researchers say the PD drug levodopa (which some people believe may play a role in melanoma risk) is not likely a factor in the PD/melanoma connection, according to McKnight’s. They found that the majority of melanomas were diagnosed before the diagnosis or treatment of Parkinson’s disease, so taking levodopa doesn’t appear to be a risk factor. Future research should focus on genes, immune responses and environmental exposures that could cause the relationship, the researchers say. Know your “ABCDEs” Check out the Skin Cancer Foundation’s “ABCDEs of Melanoma” (click here to see images of examples), and make an appointment right away if you spot any of these warning signs: A = asymmetry. Malignant moles tend to have an odd shape. B = border. The edges of an early melanoma may be …

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Driving with Parkinson’s disease: Safety considerations + turning over the keys

Are you still driving with Parkinson’s disease? Check out some safety considerations and pointers for determining if it’s time to turn over the keys. Plus, explore how others with PD have handled this tricky topic and see some alternate ways of getting around. Considerations for driving with PD + 7 questions to ask yourself “You will likely be able to drive safely and legally for several years, depending on your age and general physical condition,” according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “However, Parkinson’s disease eventually affects reaction time, ability to handle multiple tasks, vision and judgment.” Everyone with PD is living with their own mix of motor and non-motor symptoms, rate of disease progression, and reaction to medication (such as levodopa “ons and offs”) — all of which can affect driving abilities. There are currently no set guidelines for neurologists to determine someone’s fitness to drive, so doctors consider patients’ skills and symptoms on a case-by-case basis, according to ParkinsonsDisease.net. They recommend considering these questions to help determine if you’re still fit to drive: How is my vision? Can I see well at night? Can I distinguish colors, such as in traffic lights? Would I be putting my passenger (friend or loved …

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“Breaking up” with a doctor after 14 years — Bernadette’s journey to better care

PatientsLikeMe member Bernadette (yellsea), who’s on the 2018 Team of Advisors, has been living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) since 2002. She recently filled us in about switching specialists after more than a decade with the same neurologist, and advocating for herself after enough “red flags” popped up in her interactions with that physician. Out with the old Bernadette lives in remote area in the Great Lakes Region of New York. The first PD symptom she noticed was her handwriting getting small (a common early symptom of PD known as micrographia) — and her first doctor dismissed it as “writer’s cramp.” When she began having tremors in her hand, she started seeing a neurologist with a strong reputation in Syracuse, about a 40 minute drive from her home. “He’s very well-respected in the area,” she says. “In fact, a lot of the [other] doctors won’t step on his toes.” Bernadette was experiencing serious side effects with some of her PD medications — including compulsive gambling out of the blue (a reported side effect of Mirapex) — but her neurologist asked her very few questions about how she was feeling, and never raised the topic of side effects. “My husband didn’t like him,” Bernadette says of her …

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Parkisnon's Speech

Let’s talk: Parkinson’s disease, speech changes + communication issues

Parkinson’s disease can cause your voice to become raspy, quiet or unsteady, and motor symptoms can make writing and typing more difficult. Have you experienced communication issues like these? See what others have tried — from Lee Silverman Voice Treatment and voice-activated “smart” devices to (drumroll please…) singing classes. How PD can impact communication Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain and nerves that control speech and oral/facial movement. ParkinsonsDisease.net says PD may cause: Softer, breathy, or hoarse voice Slurred speech Mumbling or rapid speech Monotone voice, lacking the normal ups and downs Slower speech because of difficulty finding the right words Trouble participating in fast-paced conversations. They also break down the medical terms related to these speech symptoms: Dysarthria — A motor speech disorder or impairment in speaking due to PD affecting the muscles required for speech Hypophonia — Soft speech or an abnormally weak voice caused by the weakening muscles Tachyphemia — Also known as “cluttering,” this is characterized by excessively fast talking and rapid stammering that can be difficult to understand In addition, people with PD may experience tremor, rigidity and dystonia or cramping, which can make writing and typing difficult. Research has shown that about half of people with PD have micrographia (small, cramped handwriting). Treatments …

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