Parkinson’s spurs many questions
Published 9:09 am Friday, January 20, 2012
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder. There is a tiny portion of the brain that produces dopamine which acts as a chemical messenger, sending signals to the nerve cells. When the brain is unable to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine, several things may happen: There may be a tremor, there may be muscular stiffness or there may be slowness in body movement among other things.
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What is the cause of Parkinson’s and who gets it? No one is quite sure. Most believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Onset usually occurs later in life, usually past the age of 50, although some cases have involved people under the age of 30. Each year approximately 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Research has shown it could be caused by chemicals in well water or pesticides. There are studies that show a larger percentage of farmers have it than other segments of society. There is a greater percentage in the five-state area here in the Midwest than in the rest of the U.S. There are studies that show Parkinson’s has been caused by the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. There are cases of both husband and wife having it and, also, though it is not proven to be inherited, there are cases, where in several generations in a family, it does pass from one generation to the next.
Most patients are Caucasians, with more men than women being affected. According to the National Parkinson Foundation website, there is a new case of Parkinson’s diagnosed every nine minutes (see www.parkinson.org for more information). You may also want to check out the following: Michael J. Fox’s Foundation at www.michaeljfox.org/parkinsons and the American Parkinson Disease Association at www.apdaparkinson.org.
Look for my next letter next week about our local support group.