April was Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and received an official proclamation recently from Governor Pete Ricketts and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothart.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain.
Some of those dying cells produce dopamine; a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As PD progresses dopamine production decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally. Primary motor signs of PD include tremors, slowness, rigidity, instability walking, as well as other non-motor symptoms.
Worldwide there are an estimated 7-10 million people living with Parkinson’s disease with as many as one million of those in the United States. Nebraska has one of the highest rates of PD per capita in the United States with as many as 700 per year being diagnosed with the disease. In Nebraska physicians are required to report all diagnosed to the Nebraska Parkinson’s Disease Registry in order to better track patients.
While the average age at which someone is diagnosed is 60, one in 10 are under age 40 and PD strikes more men than women.
Because there are no standard diagnostic tests for PD, diagnosis rests mainly with clinical information provided by the person with Parkinson’s. Any additional testing is to exclude other diseases that imitate Parkinson’s. Sadly, despite decades of intensive study, the causes of Parkinson’s remain unknown and there is no cure.
Because Parkinson’s is a very individualized disease, each person who lives with it requires a unique treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and allow a person to function as normal as possible with as few side effects as possible. There currently are six major categories of medications available to treat PD and some surgical procedures also exist.
Because living with PD is stressful for both the patient and their family, support groups are a good way to receive and exchange practical information, as well as obtain education and tips on living with the disease.
The Lexington Area Parkinson’s Support Group meets the second Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. at the education room in the Community Health and Fitness Center, 1600 W. 13th St. in Lexington. Meetings are open to the public.
Participants join in activities such as exercise, stress management, nutrition programs and use webinars to receive current PD information. Group facilitators are Brenda Bierman and Dixie Menke. For more information contact Bierman at 308-325-9216 or 308-324-2523 and Menke at 308-325-5350 or 308-784-4022.
Online resources are available through the Parkinson’s disease Foundation at www.pdf.org and Parkinson’s Nebraska at www.parkinsonsnebraska.org.