After Neil Diamond's Parkinson's diagnosis, here's what you need to know about the disease

After Neil Diamond's Parkinson's disease diagnosis, here's what you need to know

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a long-term, neurodegenerative disease that results in movement-related problems, commonly referred to as “motor” functions. These include impaired balance and coordination, slurred speech and difficulty walking.

The exact cause of PD is unknown, but what we do know is certain brain cells called neurons in the brains of patients with PD die off prematurely. These neurons normally produce a hormone called dopamine, which plays a crucial role in allowing us to move normally.

Without these neurons, the brain is deprived of dopamine, which leads to many of the movement issues seen in PD.

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

How is Parkinson’s Disease diagnosed?

If you or your primary care doctor are concerned about PD, they will likely send you to see a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in movement diseases). There is no specific test to diagnose PD; instead, the neurologist will do a thorough history and physical exam to look for signs of PD.

What is the treatment?

While there is no cure for PD, many patients with PD still enjoy a high quality of life with several different treatments, including medication, physical rehabilitation and possibly surgery.

The most common medication used in PD is called Carbidopa/Levodopa (Brand name: “Sinemet”). This medication replenishes some of the dopamine that is missing in the brain. Doctors may use several other medications as well to help with the symptoms of the disease.

Your doctor may also discuss a surgical procedure called deep brain stimulation (DBS). This is usually only done in PD patients with advanced symptoms.