Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Exactly Is Parkinson's Disease, by Guest Writer - Debra

Photo by Debra - location Northern Florida 

Dear Readers,

I'm so happy to have Debra of @Manxmnews back as a guest writer again.  
You'll remember from her post here on 10/8/11 her husband was diagnosed with PD in his 50's.   Debra has managed to sum up PD very well, as you will see.  

From Debra,

"Parkinson disease is a slow progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that occurs when nerve cells, called neurons, in the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. These neurons normally produce a substance called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical messenger transmitting signals in the relay stations of the brain, allowing for smooth, coordinated fluid movements of the body’s muscles.

The 4 main motor symptoms of PD are:

(1) Shaking and tremor Tremor is present in approximately 70% of people diagnosed with PD. The tremor in a hand or foot at rest is called a resting tremor. In 75% of cases tremor only affects one side of the body, especially in the early stages of PD.

(2)Slowness of movement, called Bradykinesia
Bradykinesia, is a profound slowness of movement, and a loss of automated movement, and is often a very disabling symptom of PD.

(3)Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk

(4) Trouble with balance called postural instability This causes people diagnosed with PD to develop a forward or backward lean and to fall easily.

Secondary symptoms of PD -Micrographia which is small cramped handwriting
-Reduced arm swing
-Slight foot drag on the affected side
-Freezing, a term used to describe being stuck in place when attempting to walk
-Hypomimia, loss of facial expression
-Dysarthria, low voice volume
-Retropulsion, tendency to fall backwards
-Festination, walking with a series of quick small steps

PD can also affect other body systems, resulting in non-motor symptoms. Some of those symptoms of PD include:
-decrease in automatic reflexes such as blinking and swallowing
-increase in dandruff or oily skin
-sleep disturbances

Not all of the symptoms will be present in every individual, and the rate of progression will also vary from one person to the next.

Neurologists usually do not diagnosed PD until at least two of the four main symptoms are present over a period of time. The disease is both chronic, meaning it persists for a long period, and progressive, meaning it’s symptoms may gradually worsen over time.

PD is in most forms of parkinsonism, the label for a group of disorders with similar features. PD is also called primary parkinsonism or idiopathic Parkinson Disease. Idiopathic is a term used to describe a disorder for which no known cause has yet to be found.

The loss of dopamine producing neurons in the brain results in difficulty with movements. When the brain losses 80% of the dopamine producing cells in the brain, the main features of PD become evident. The cause of cell death is not known.

One theory about the cause of PD is free radicals -- damaging molecules generated by normal chemical reactions in the body -- may contribute to nerve cell death and lead to PD. Free radicals lead to oxidation, which is thought to cause damage to tissue, including neurons.

Another theory is PD may be caused by certain toxins, such as pesticides that destroy dopamine producing neurons. But there is no conclusive proof that external toxins are the cause of the disease.

Research is also exploring the role of genetic factors in PD. While several genes are known to cause specific forms of PD, the majority of the cases do not have a genetic link to PD.

One other theory proposes that PD occurs for unknown reasons associated with the normal age-related erosion of dopamine producing neurons in individuals. This idea is supported by the loss of antioxidant protection that is associated with both PD and normal aging.

There is not a clear understanding of PD, nor is there a current cure.


Thank you so much Debra for summing this up so well.  It's a complicated disease as you and I so well know.  And thank you for being such a good friend.   If I can ever manage to get back to Florida, I'll be anxious to meet you in person.



  1. Thank you.Debra. You have hit the nail on the head with the symptoms. Our Dad has developed most of them. Not at first. At first was the tremor and stiffness. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly he now has most of the symptoms.
    It is a complicated disease, as Mary said. These symptoms can just pop up out of nowhere.
    Kathy of

  2. All my hugs to u. {{{Debra}}} {{{Mary}}}

  3. I never realized just how complicated this disease is!

  4. Debra, what a service you provide as does Mary in these enlightening discussions. We learn and if we know someone with this disease maybe we can at least be understanding and of a help.

  5. Mary
    Thank you for the opportunity to post this overview. PD is such a mysterious disease it affects so many facets of life, with new research there is always hope for finding a cure.


  6. Hi Debra, there is very important information discussed her. My maternal grandfather suffered from PD,


  7. Thanks for this information. Twitter

  8. Great info here, I shared with my mother for her because my dad has this. He is a WWII vet and they attributed it to shell shock for years. It wasn't until he was in his 70's before dr diagnosed PD. The doctor refuses to give him meds, just says he will be too sleepy. Stubborn dad won't go to another dr.


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