Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a degenerative brain disorder that leads to movement restrictions and other symptoms in patients. PD most frequently affects people over age 60, but also people of all ages, races and genders. Over one million people are living with PD, and that number is expected to double in the next 10 to 15 years.
Diagnosis is difficult
PD is difficult to diagnose, even though it is the second most common brain degenerative disorder in the U.S., after Alzheimer’s disease. “I went for 2 years with a variety of ailments, all on my left side,” said Jean Kornowa, a board member of the Parkinson’s Foundation of Northwest Ohio, until finally, she was diagnosed with PD upon a thorough review of her symptoms.
Although significant research is ongoing, there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Current therapies are aimed at slowing the progression of the disease, including medications, physical and occupational therapy, surgery (in some cases) and attention to mental health.
The evolution of PD medication
Medications play a significant role in the care and treatment of PD. “Where there were 2 or 3 medicines 40 years ago, now there are more than 20 we can use to create a ‘cocktail’ to treat specific symptoms,” explained Dr. Larry Elmer, MD, PhD, with the University of Toledo College of Medicine and ProMedica Neurosciences Center.
New treatments, according to Dr. Elmer, include the use of dopamine agonists, synthetic medicines that act like dopamine in the brain but are extremely long acting. “Another treatment takes a different pathway into the brain and would have far fewer side effects,” he explained. With these and other therapies, Dr. Elmer said that most patients’ lifespans will not be shortened by PD. “We’re working to keep PD as insignificant as possible today.”
The amazing impact of exercise
Adding exercise to the treatment regimen has resulted in remarkable progress for patients. “We’ve found that vigorous exercise leads to the release of growth factors in the brain, which can help cells to get healthy again,” said Dr. Elmer. High intensity cardio exercise, dancing and singing,biking and boxing are “challenging the brain to do something it’s never done,” he said.
There are many local or accessible programs designed specifically for use in treating PD: LSVT BIG & LOUD Therapies at PT Link in Toledo and BAM (Balance and Mobility Therapy) in Sylvania. Parkinsons Foundation of Northwest Ohio offers video exercises, classes at area YMCAs and health centers, support groups, as well as Delay the
Disease programs nearby. They also have equipment patients can borrow and general information you can use Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio helps connections to support services and meals throughout the area
Dr. Elmer offers, “Many patients come in expecting that they won’t be able to do the things they used to love. We can control their symptoms through a combination of therapies, and there is more hope for
the future with PD than ever. With hope, encouragement and guidance, patients can often control their PD -it doesn’t control them.”