Parkinson Disease

By Dr. Sabiha Parveen

Parkinson disease (PD) is the second most common neurological disorder affecting people over the age of 65 years around the world. Approximately one million Americans are currently living with PD. Parkinson disease is caused due to loss of neurons which produce an important neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is essential for several functions including physical movements such as walking, switching from sitting to standing, as well as other skills like learning and memory. Parkinson disease can affect different aspects of a person’s life. The four clinical signs typically used to diagnose PD are changes in gait, rigidity (or stiffness experienced in muscles), bradykinesia (or slowness of movements), and rest tremors. In addition, PD is often associated with changes in speech, voice, and swallowing. Parkinson disease can also cause different neuropsychological symptoms including depression, apathy, and anxiety. It is important to discuss any changes in behavior or symptoms with the physician or the neurologist.

There is no known cause for PD. However, research suggests that, with the proper management of symptoms, people with PD have about the same life expectancy as those without PD. Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and effective intervention can lead to long and productive lives for many people with PD post diagnosis. There is no one treatment or vaccine currently available that can either stop PD or eliminate PD from occurring. The commonly administered medication for PD is carbidopa levodopa (or Sinemet). The medications are recommended based on the specific symptoms experienced by a person. Currently, the most common modes of treatment include pharmacological treatment and different types of therapy (including physical therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy). Physical exercise has been found to be the most effective means to delay the progression of PD symptoms. In cases when medications are ineffective in controlling the symptoms, a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation (or DBS) can be performed which can aid in controlling the main motor symptoms as well as reduce motor complications.

The community of Stillwater has several resources for people with PD. Two neurologists currently practice in Stillwater and are excellent resources for people with PD and for their families. Specific to therapy services, Oklahoma State University (OSU) offers a free weekly program consisting of speech therapy and physical exercises for people with PD. In addition, Total Health and Stillwater YMCA provide different exercise classes as well as programs for people with different severities of PD.

Aging Advocates, a group of area businesses and agencies in the Stillwater area, come together monthly to advocate for older adults. From their experiences, they innovate ideas and raise awareness of older adult issues. It is important to look at the developing needs of the different aging population and look to support, educate and find services valuable to a life fully lived.

About the Author: The author is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Oklahoma State University. Her research interests include adult neurogenic disorders with an emphasis on Parkinson disease. She is also the facilitator for the Stillwater PD Support group which meets on First Tuesday evening of each month at the Stillwater Public Library. For more information related to the Stillwater PD Support Group or the OSU Weekly Program, please the website: http://stillwaterpdsupport.weebly.com/ or contact Dr. Parveen at sabiha.parveen@okstate.edu or by phone (405-744-5116).