Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is our most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and one of the world’s fastest growing neurological disorders. About a million people had PD in 2017, costing the nation more than $51 billion. It is expected that more than 1.6 million will be living with PD by 2037.
Although symptoms and symptom severity vary among individuals, PD generally starts with a tremor in the hands or arms. Other early symptoms include:
1) Bradykinesia—slowness of movement in which the patient feels like they’re glued to the ground or chair and it’s hard to get going; this progressively erases body language and facial expression.
2) Rigidity—stiffness and jerkiness in movement.
3) Posture and balance problems—instability, stooped stance, impaired gait.
However PD is a relentlessly progressive disease of neurological deterioration. In its most advanced stage PD is totally disabling. It makes your legs so “frozen” and stiff that it’s impossible to walk or even stand. At this stage, you will need both a wheelchair and round-the-clock assistance to prevent falls.
And although PD is thought of as a movement disorder, newer research confirms that psychological and cognitive symptoms are part of the picture—worsening along with overall disease progression. In PD’s most advanced stage, up to 50% of patients experience confusion, hallucinations and delusions; and dementia affects from 50-80%.
The primary problem in PD is the gradual destruction of brain cells (neurons) that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. But other neurotransmitter-producing neurons show damage as well.
Allopathic medicine treats PD with drugs that compensate for the resultant dopamine deficiency. The most effective and popular drug, Levodopa (L-dopa) is a precursor the brain can use to make dopamine. Other drugs mimic the effects of dopamine, or block an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, or address symptoms in some other way. All of these drugs have side effects that greatly impact quality of life, and since they don’t stop the progression of the disease, ultimately they become less and less effective. As the drugs lose their effect, there are surgeries that can help. But again, the surgeries don’t stop the disease’s progression.
So how can we address the cause of PD to stop its progression and even possibly reverse it?
Researchers are still trying to pin down a cause, or causes. Certain genetic defects are linked to PD as well as toxic exposures. (You may have seen recent ads on TV inviting you to join a lawsuit if you have PD and were exposed to the pesticide Paraquat.) It is thought that probably a combination of factors is involved.
What is known, however, is that, whatever the cause, in PD the dopamine-producing neurons are damaged and ultimately killed by two factors: oxidative stress and cellular energy deficit.
In the upcoming Healthy Tips, we'll tell you about novel ways alternative doctors have been slowing down, stopping and even reversing the PD disease process by addressing these two factors while providing maximum nutritional and detoxification support.
- Yang W. Current and projected future economic burden of Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. NPJ Parkinson’s Disease. Published online July 9, 2020.
- Cleveland Clinic. Parkinson’s Disease. Accessed September 5, 2021. See this link for a more complete description of PD and its symptoms, stages, and treatment.
- Hammond N. The 5 stages of Parkinson’s, Healthline. Updated July 2, 2021.
- Weintraub D. Neuropsychiatric symptoms and cognitive abilities over the initial quinquennium of Parkinson’s disease. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. April 2020;7(4):449-461.
- Kidd P. Parkinson’s disease as multifactorial oxidative neurodegeneration: implications for integrative management. Alternative Medicine Review. 2000;5(6):502-528.