Nearly 1 million Americans are living with Parkinson's disease, an incurable movement disorder that worsens over time. Symptoms include tremors of the hands, arms, legs and face; stiffness in the limbs; slowed movement; and impaired balance and coordination, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.
These symptoms are caused by destruction of certain cells in the brain. Messages from the brain telling the body how and when to move are delivered more slowly, leaving a person incapable of initiating and controlling movements in a normal way.
Treatment for Parkinson's is directed at relieving symptoms, usually through the use of medication or surgery. Other treatment approaches include general lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
"Strides have been made in the past decade that have improved both medications and surgical techniques," said Todd Shanks, M.D., functional neurosurgery. "Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, a procedure to lessen uncontrolled movements, is not only relieving symptoms but restoring quality of life in many cases."
DBS modulates electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain through the use of electrodes implanted into deep nuclei of the brain. The electrodes deliver impulses that block or override the abnormal brain activity. DBS is an adjustable and reversible treatment modality that does not damage healthy brain tissue.
Some people with Parkinson's become reclusive because they are embarrassed by their condition, according to Dr. Shanks.
"After they have the DBS procedure, they are able to feed and dress themselves, work, write and enjoy life more," Dr. Shanks said. "It makes a huge difference for them socially and psychologically." Many patients are able to decrease their medications- another great benefit. "Certain people who suffer from Parkinson's can experience great benefits with surgical intervention," Dr. Shanks said.
Research continues to gain ground on this disabling condition in hopes of finding a cure.
"New treatments are on the horizon," Dr. Shanks said. "Research is progressing in the areas of stimulation, gene therapy, cellular transplantation and micro-infusion technologies."
Music and movement for the mind
Norton Audubon Hospital and the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana sponsor free weekly music therapy and yoga groups for people with Parkinson's disease. For more information, call (502) 629-1234.
Helps improve breath support, coordination and mobility
Every Friday 11 a.m. to noon
Helps improve posture, balance, gait and mobility
Every Thursday 9 to 10 a.m.
Norton Audubon Hospital
Norton Joint Care Gym, sixth floor
1 Audubon Plaza Drive, Louisville, Ky.
How you can help
To find out how you can support advanced care for people with Parkinson's disease and other movement and neurological disorders, contact the Norton Healthcare Foundation at (502) 629-8060 or NortonHealthcareFoundation.com.