Living Well

New hope for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease

Dr. Bryan Payne
New hope for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease

For anyone suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, there’s a lot of hope on the horizon, both on the national front and right here at West Jefferson Medical Center, as strides are being made to better the lives of those living with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s is one of many conditions known as a Movement Disorder

You may have heard the term "movement disorder" but not fully understand how it impacts the body. Generally speaking, this disorder refers to a group of neurological or nerve-impacting conditions that cause abnormal increased movements or reduced slow movements. These movements may also be voluntary or involuntary. Scientists believe that Parkinson’s disease (PD) is caused by Dopaminergic neurons in the brain failing to produce enough dopamine, a chemical that fuels your body for movement, whether it’s walking, running or simply raising a glass to your mouth. The neurons eventually begin to die off, and once that process starts, the impact on the body can become very noticeable. Doctors say there are prevalent signs that you may have PD are:

  • Tremors or slight shaking in the hands or lower face
  • Handwriting changes – your letters and words get smaller, and words are crowded together
  • Loss of smell
  • Trouble moving or walking and hunching over
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness or fainting

The Parkinson’s Foundation notes that as of last year, some 930,000 people in the U.S. were living with PD, over 10,000 patients here in Louisiana. When it comes to who is more prevalent to have PD, studies show that men are more likely to have PD than women. As for diagnosing this disorder, doctors say there is no one way to detect PD, especially in the early stages. However, if it is suspected, a patient will undergo numerous diagnostic tests, and the results will be reviewed along with any potential symptoms so a determination can be made on whether it’s PD or another type of movement disorder.

New medicines and other treatments are bettering the lives of those with PD

Last year, the Journal of Parkinson’s Diseasenoted that there were more than 100 clinical trials underway around the world treatments and even preventative therapies for those suffering from the type of movement disorder. But medication is not the only way to treat this disease, there is also something known as Deep brain stimulation (DBS), and it’s a powerful tool that’s available at West Jefferson Medical Center. DBS involves the placement of a small device in the upper chest area of the body, known as a pulse generator, that is then connected by a thin wire to the area of the brain not properly functioning. Once everything is in place, and the pulse generator is activated, which takes place in a doctor’s office a few weeks after the initial surgery, the pulse generator becomes that source of energy your body needs to move normally; it essentially takes over the role of the damaged Dopaminergic neurons in the brain.

A healthy lifestyle can also ease symptoms

Regardless if you are battling a chronic illness or not, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to sustain overall good health. There is no particular diet for those with PD, but there are things you can do to ease symptoms and stay as healthy as possible:

  • Drink water throughout the day, and if you are on medication, make sure you take medicine with a full glass of water as it helps break down the drug properly
  • Eat fiber-rich foods, including brown rice and whole grains
  • Limit sugar, alcohol, and caffeine intake, particularly before bedtime, as they may disrupt sleep
  • Talk to your doctor about if you should increase your Vitamin D intake by including more milk or milk products in your diet or eating more foods with Vitamin D, such as tuna, mackerel or salmon
  • Good snack foods include a small helping of walnuts, cashews, and other nuts that promote brain health. Berries are also an excellent go-to snack.

Like everything, change can be hard but know that eating healthy can ease PD symptoms and promote overall better health on all fronts. If you realize you are not eating the best foods, start slow and gradually introduce healthier foods in place of those foods, you should avoid. Not only will you start feeling better, but you may find your body craving the more nutritious choices and then saving a not-so-healthy choice for a special occasion or event.

About Dr. Bryan Payne
Dr. Bryan Payne is a Kentucky native earning his undergraduate degree, with honors, in Chemistry from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Following graduation, he did not venture far as he entered the University of Louisville, School of Medicine, graduating in 1992. His arrival in Louisiana came shortly after as he interned in general surgery at Louisiana State University-New Orleans, Department of Surgery. Dr. Payne was then named Chief Neurosurgery Resident at LSU expanding his skills at the now famed Charity Hospital. His more advanced studies also brought him to the University of Virginia and Emory University before returning to Louisiana, where he now continues in the practice of Neurological Surgery.