The first time I heard of Parkinson’s was 1991 when Michael J Fox was diagnosed at age 29.
Like so many people my heart went out to him and his family, but I really didn’t know much about the disease. Little did I know years later that would change.
Recently you might have heard about Neil Diamond being diagnosed at age 77 with Parkinson’s.
You might be wondering about the disease, so I thought I’d share some information that might help you understand what it is and who it affects.
Parkinson’s affects up to 1 million people in the U.S.
Doctors diagnose about 60,000 people per year
Parkinson’s affects 50% more men than women
The average age of diagnoses is 60
Those diagnosed before age 50 make up about 5 to 10 percent of cases
In the early stages of the disease, around 70 percent of people experience a slight tremor of some kind in either their hand or foot or one side of the body and even though it is less common even in the face or jaw.
What Is A Tremor
Basically, a tremor is an involuntary movement which has an effect on a certain body part.
A sign that a tremor is about to happen can be a slight movement in one finger.
After Neil Diamond was diagnosed we were with some friends talking about Parkinson’s. To our surprise, one of them stated they thought they might have Parkinson’s. While we were sitting at a restaurant I saw the slight movement of his finger and then I did see his arm start to shake slightly.
The tremor consists of a shaking or oscillating movement and will come on when a person’s muscles are completely relaxed and that is why this type of tremor is known as the “resting tremor.” The part of the body which is not in action experiences a trembling.
One such typical movement can be that the hand or fingers begin to tremble as the hand is held in the lap or hanging loosely by the side of the body. This kind of tremor usually stops when a person begins a certain action.
There are people who have come to realize that if they keep their hand in motion or in a flexed grip the tremor will stop.
As Parkinson’s progresses the tremor can also spread to the other side of the body but remains prominent on the side of the body where it began. It is important to remember that even though a tremor is an outward sign of this disease, not all people develop one.
For some people, this can also be the first sign that they have the disease.
Another kind of tremor which can show up is an action tremor which can occur while doing something simple like drinking from a cup, putting a fork to the mouth or holding a magazine.
Another defining feature of Parkinson’s is Bradykinesia, meaning “slow movement.”
I noticed that my family member was “dragging” and or shuffling his feet when he was walking.
Simple everyday things might become difficult such as buttoning your shirt or brushing your teeth.
There might be abnormal stillness and a decrease in facial expressions.
A person’s speech might also be affected, and they might wind up speaking quieter and their speech might not be as clear.
My friend who had Parkinson’s was hard to understand but the strange thing was that when he sang you could understand him much better!
Another friend of mine who is female appears to have no problem with her speech however her tremors are more severe at times.
Causes of Parkinson’s
People with Parkinson’s disease don’t have enough of a chemical known as dopamine. Some of the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine have died and without it, the symptoms of tremors appear.
There are many types of drug treatments for Parkinson’s. Along with that comes adverse effects as well.
When my family member was diagnosed we started doing research and investigated alternative type treatments. The doctor told us she could give a number of drugs to treat the symptoms, but the bottom line was that ultimately, they’d all lose their effectiveness while causing damage to the body.
That lead to a search on YouTube where we found some extremely positive videos where people were using cannabis (medical marijuana.)
The results we saw were impressive.
What surprised us was the conversation we had with our doctor about cannabis. When asked she said she’d heard about using it for Parkinson’s but that she would not prescribe it. We’d have to find another doctor to do that.
I thought that was strange. Why would a doctor not use a treatment that obviously helped patients?
Later I found out It has to do with rules and regulations that most doctors don’t want to deal with.
We sought the care of another physician who was able to get things started.
There was a process we had to follow which included submitting an application to the state we live in.
Three months later the application was approved, and we were able to get the medical marijuana.
There’s a lot of controversy about people who use cannabis (medical marijuana)
Those without knowledge think people go around “high” but that’s because they lack knowledge.
The people I know aren’t “high” but they are functioning. That’s huge. You don’t know what it’s like to suffer from this disease, so it might be easy for you to say people shouldn’t use medical marijuana.
A friend of mine who’s had Parkinson’s for about 14 years has been taking numerous medications. Her doctor recently told her that she had to go off everything because of the damage it was causing to her body. His recommendation? Medical marijuana.
One day when I was visiting her at her home I noticed she wasn’t shaking as much as she usually did. She told me it was because she was using the cannabis.
It was amazing!
Of course, she still has issues but let me say this. Anytime you can get relief from your symptoms it’s a win-win situation.
Visit a dispensary and you know what you’ll find? Everyday people seeking a way to deal with their various illnesses in a way that won’t cause their kidney’s or liver to shut down.
You’ll find men and women who are benefiting from this treatment.
One of my friends died of Parkinson’s two years ago. We watched as the disease took away his essence but through it all, he remained as upbeat as possible fighting it all the way. I wish cannabis had been available to him. I think it would have made a big difference.
I shudder to think what would be happening to my family member if not for the cannabis.
It’s interesting how the things you experience in life change your life path. I’ve written 4 business-based books but now I believe it’s time to write a book about Parkinson’s.
Why? Because people need to know not only what it is and how it can affect their friends and family but also how they can support them.