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Common Symptoms That Signal Parkinson's Disease

Common Symptoms That Signal Parkinson's Disease
Late boxing legend Muhammad Ali, shown with and wife Lonnie in 2012, was treated for Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive)

By    |   Monday, 08 March 2021 10:02 AM

More than one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease -- more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS).

The Parkinson’s Foundation adds that approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. While the incidence generally increases with age, about 4% of people with PD are diagnosed under the age of 50.

The problem with identifying PD, say experts, is there is no test to diagnose the disease. Also, there is no treatment or cure. Surprisingly, one basic lifestyle modification can help and that is exercise, according to a leading expert.

"It's not like cancer where you detect it early through cell or tissue samples and begin treatment early," said Dr. Abraham Lieberman, a renowned neurologist who took care of legendary boxer Mohammad Ali for more than 30 years when he battled PD. "The only way to possibly diagnose Parkinson's is with a CT scan to measure dopamine deficiency in the brain.

"So, if the patient is very anxious or has a family history of Parkinson’s, the doctor may order the scan. But even then, there is no treatment or cure as yet, so all we can do is give medicine to manage the symptoms which can clearly help and physical therapy to slow the progression."

Research has shown there are some early warning signs for Parkinson's disease that may precede the movement disorders and tremors usually associated with the disease.

1. Loss of smell. People with PD often recall changes in their sense of smell, long before developing more serious symptoms, according to CNN.

2. Restless nights. Changes in sleep patterns, called rapid eye movements (REM), also can signal Parkinson's. People with REM sleep behaviors disorder (RBD) act out their dreams, often moving violently and potentially dangerously, during sleep. While RBD is rare, most people who develop this disorder will also develop Parkinson's disease within 10 years.

3. Constipation. This is very common for PD patients and can become problematic, but studies have shown that this symptom can signal the disease long before movement disorders develop. Because constipation is prevalent, it is unlikely a person will ask his physician for a CT scan to find PD, said Dr. Alberto J. Espay, professor of neurology and the director of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center Research Chair for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the University of Cincinnati. "It’s just one piece of a very large puzzle," Espay said. Constipation could be one of the earliest symptoms of the disease, preceding more serious developments by 20 years.

4. Anxiety and depression. Changes in the chemical activity of the brain can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, these non-motor symptoms can affect two out of five people with PD. While there is some aspect of chicken-or-the-egg reasons anxiety and depression affect PD patients, experts say that if can precede the motor and movement symptoms and be an early warning sign that the brain chemicals are changing.

Espay added a surprising and uplifting message to what could appear to be a dismal prognosis for Parkinson's patients.

"I have seen tremendous benefits from individualized plans of exercise for those suffering from the disease," he said. "Exercise is considered to be the step-child of medicine, but it should be the golden child. While there is no direct intervention or medicine to treat Parkinson’s disease at the present time, nothing works like exercise.”"

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More than one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease. That's more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease...
parkinsons disease, signals, brain health
Monday, 08 March 2021 10:02 AM
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