A Bit of History About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disease that is hard to understand and once diagnosed, people find themselves worried about what will happen in their future. So it may be good to learn a bit about the history of Parkinson’s. It is unknown when Parkinson’s was actually discovered, but it is known that medical scientists have been treating this disease for a thousand years at least.

James Parkinson

James Parkinson

Amazing as it might seem, the symptoms and probable treatments of Parkinson’s were discussed in an ancient Indian medical practice known as Ayurveda dating back to as early as 5000 B.C. This kind of medical condition was also mentioned in Nei Jing, the first Chinese medical text from over 2,500 years ago. Parkinson’s disease was first recognized in 1817 when “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy” by James Parkinson was published. Parkinson was a London doctor who first observed the classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in three of his patients.

Originally Thought To Be Terminal

For many decades afterwards, no effective treatments were available for this disease and it was actually thought to be a terminal illness. Finally, in the 1940s and 1950s, neurosurgeons started performing surgery on the basal ganglia of the brain. This resulted in improvement for patients with Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. However, the surgery wasn’t without risk and around 12 percent of patients died due to the operation.

The Shaking Palsy

Brain Differences Discovered

Finally, in the 1960s, came the biggest advancement in the treatment of Parkinson’s, when researchers were able to identify the differences in the brains of people with this disease. They had low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that lets people have smooth and coordinated movement. Through all the research being done came the development of the medicine Levodopa, also known as L-dopa. This medication was able to help nerve cells produce dopamine.

Today people with Parkinson’s are treated with a combination of Levodopa and another medication known as Sinemet. Sinemet reduces some of the side effects produced by Levodopa. These therapies are usually effective for five to ten years when they stop working or they lead to adverse effects.

Brain Scan

Current Treatments

Other medications which have been developed to help people suffering from Parkinson’s include Mirapex, Requip, and drugs known as COMT inhibitors. All of these can help in the management of Parkinson’s disease symptoms when Levodopa is not effective any longer.

There has also been a return to brain surgery where surgical procedures can be used to help destroy selective areas of the brain in order to help relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Now a safer operation has been developed called deep brain simulation where an electrode is implanted into the brain helping to curb the symptoms of this disease.

At present, there have been great strides made in the research and therapy of Parkinson’s disease. Some of the therapies which will soon be available include the transplantation of healthy dopamine-producing tissues into the brain and the use of medications to prevent dopamine producing brain cells from becoming damaged or lost. It is the understanding of what Parkinson’s Disease is, that can help those who have been diagnosed with it.

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