Over one million Americans live with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), with 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Many people do not realize that Parkinson’s is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.
Ozzy Osbourne revealed himself to be among the ranks of patients living with PD when he announced his diagnosis this week. Diagnosed last February, Osbourne also announced the postponement of his 2020 tour, which he hopes to resume in October of this year.
The Learning Corp’s Vice President of Research and Development, Dr. Shaheen Lakhan, is a neurologist who has treated many Parkinson’s patients. Though he has never treated Osbourne, Dr. Lakhan believes the legendary music star displays many of the classic clinical signs of the condition, including a shuffling gait, tremor, changed voice, and rigid movements.
“For someone with PD who is a vocalist and performer, some of the symptomatic challenges can include vocal changes which could affect singing and rigidity which can impair movement,” said Dr. Lakhan. “PD patients can also be more prone to falls and orthostatic hypotension with associated dizziness which could make performing more difficult as well.”
Dr. Lakhan says physical and speech therapy can help PD patients retain mobility, and stressed the importance of adopting a diet rich in fiber, whole grains, protein-rich foods, and B-complement vitamins. Monitoring overall mental health is also important, as PD patients are also at high risk for depression and psychosis.
“Once diagnosed, taking proactive measures to monitor and address the physical, cognitive and mental manifestations of Parkinson’s is crucial in managing the condition and maintaining some autonomy over your body and mind,” said Dr. Lakhan. “With a doctor’s oversight, developing and adhering to a comprehensive management plan can increase patients’ chances of having a more active and engaged lifestyle.”
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Alongside Osbourne, a number of well-known individuals have been diagnosed with and lived with Parkinson’s, including boxer Muhammad Ali, singers Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, and actors Robin Williams, Alan Alda and Michael J. Fox. Their diagnoses have helped to bring more awareness to this disorder.
Read on for more about Parkinson’s, including symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the part of the brain responsible for movement. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the disease primarily targets the neurons in the brain that produce dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that sends signals throughout the brain affecting mood, movement, and memory. If you have Parkinson’s when these neurons die they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems typically identified with PD.
People with Parkinson’s also lose the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine, the main chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls many automatic functions of the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The loss of norepinephrine might help explain some of the non-movement features of Parkinson’s, such as fatigue, and irregular blood pressure.
Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed by identifying four concurrent signs: tremors, slowness of movement, rigid limbs, and difficulty walking.
Symptoms of PD are most likely to appear in individuals who are older than 60 years of age, however, symptoms can start at 50 or younger. When the latter occurs, it’s referred to as ‘young-onset Parkinson’s disease’ (YOPD). Estimates vary, but about 10 percent of people with Parkinson’s may fall into this category. Actor Michael J. Fox was just 29 when he was diagnosed.
Studies show that men are 1.5 times more likely than women to get Parkinson’s, although scientists are not able to explain why this is. In addition, the incidence of the disease is higher in industrialized countries, and in fact, in the U.S., urban areas have a higher prevalence of and incidence of PD than rural areas. Also, in the U.S., studies show that Parkinson’s is substantially more common in white Americans of European background than in other ethnic groups.
The cause of Parkinson’s essentially remains largely unknown. However, theories for potential causes range from oxidative damage (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body) and environmental toxins to genetic factors and accelerated aging.
With treatment, the life expectancy of people with PD is similar to that of the general population. Scientists have found that early detection of the disease, prevention of motor symptom progression, and treatment of dementia can increase life expectancy.
[Photo credit: ID 118047283 © Mikhail Grushin]