Brain Disorders

Jacey Lans
Parkinson’s Disease

“People always ask me if I say to myself ‘Why Me?’ and I tell them, ‘Why not me?” This is how Michael J. Fox responds whenever people ask him about his Parkinson’s disease. In 1991 at the young age of thirty, Michael was diagnosed with Juvenile Parkinson’s. Since that day it has been Michael’s goal to find a cure and so he created the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated 5 million people all over the world and someday we will hopefully find a way to treat and cure every single one of them.
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder caused by the loss of cells in the brain. The cells that are lost are found in the Substantia Nigra; this is where the chemical dopamine is created and is responsible for coordination and movement. These cells fire off at uneven times and that’s what causes the muscle instability. The disease was first founded in 1817 by an English Dr. James Parkinson. A Parkinson’s patient will suffer from involuntary movements and this is the first sign of the disease. Other symptoms are resting tremors, slow movements, also known as bradykinesia, poor posture, and several other muscle problems. The beginning signs of Parkinson’s are as simple as involuntary shaking, muscle instability, and these usually begin only on one side of the body and then continue to progress to the other side. All of these symptoms will gradually progress over time and become worse if not put on some form of treatment.
Parkinson’s disease is very difficult to diagnose because it is so broad and there is no way to be certain when people have it. It is the most misdiagnosed disease known today. When people have undergone all the testing and are diagnosed with Parkinson’s they will then be analyzed using the Hoehn and Yahr scale and will get a guess on how fast their Parkinson’s will increase. The next step is to be put on some form of medication that will increase their dopamine levels. In some severe cases surgery is used, in which they go in and replace the damaged tissue with fetal tissue or even pig tissue. One positive note is that Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, but however it does progress very rapidly sometimes. In most cases people with Parkinson’s can live long productive lives if they receive the proper care.
Experts have not come up with any reason as to why some people get Parkinson’s. It could be genetics, the environment, but the most logical one is a genetic mutation that creates the dopamine to misfire. For example Muhammed Ali is another famous figure that is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Some believe that Ali got Parkinson’s from boxing and receiving so many constant blows to the head. His brain scans show that he has brain damage that isn’t due to the Parkinson’s, but that isn’t helping his condition.
Many people wonder about Michael J. Fox and how he is handling his Parkinson’s disease. Michael tells the media that he is doing well, but does not like to discuss his health or any of his treatment options because he doesn’t want to seem like he is endorsing one treatment over another. There is much hope for anyone suffering with Parkinson’s disease. “Michael J. Fox wholeheartedly believes that if there is a concentrated effort from the Parkinson’s community, elected representatives in Washington DC, and (most importantly) the general public, researchers can pinpoint the cause of Parkinson’s and uncover a cure by the year 2010”.


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