One patient of ours, we can call him Frederick Shapell, (not his real name), presented with the following symptoms: slow movement, tremor, rigidity, and poor balance. According to his medical profiles in history, these symptoms described very precisely classic Parkinson’s disease.
This illness, which most often appears in seniors (symptoms usually appear around age 60- Shapell was 63) is caused by the death of neurons (brain cells) which control movement. When the neurons die they can no longer secrete Dopamine, the chemical which transmits brain messages from one neuron to the next. If there is no Dopamine communication between the neurons is impaired and as a result so is the patient’s ability to successfully control his motion.
We were able to treat Shapell with a variety of drugs which could help delay the progression of the disease, but not the actual demise of the neurons. Unfortunately, usually by the time symptoms appear over 80 percent of the neurons that manufacture Dopamine have already perished. Today researchers are vigorously looking for not just a cure, which is the ultimate goal for Parkinson’s patients, but also early detection before actual symptoms begin to appear, which can help preserve neurons and slow down their death.
After we examined Shapell it was not hard to conclude that Parkinson’s was the cause of his symptoms. Hopefully, not too much further into the future a patient’s profiles, history and symptoms will help us to diagnose this degenerative disease sooner, so we can keep symptoms at bay longer.