Approximately 60,000 people each year are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the United States. More than 10 million people worldwide are dealing with this horrible disease. There is no cure for Parkinson's disease. There are treatments, medications, and even some surgical procedures that may help with symptoms, but the disease is progressive and worsens over time.
It can be difficult for someone to live with Parkinson's disease, and it can also be hard for friends and family to watch a loved one's health deteriorate. Actor Michael J. Fox is a notable person living with Parkinson's disease. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, most people who develop Parkinson's disease are about 60 years old, but it can occur in people younger than that, as it did with him. It is thought that most people with Parkinson's disease can live between 10 and 20 years, but this too can vary.
What Is Parkinson's Disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder. In the early stages, Parkinson's may only present mild symptoms for some time. The disease affects body movements. A first signal might be only a tremor in one hand. Body tremors can be a symptom that worsens over time, accompanied by stiffness and slowing of body movements. Sometimes, early signs of Parkinson's disease will only be noticeable on one side of the body. This side of the body may always be worse, even after the disease begins to affect the entire body.
Other early signs of Parkinson's disease can be little or no expression on the face. No arm swinging movements while walking might become noticeable. A person's speech may become slow, soft, or slurred. These symptoms usually intensify over time and can turn a person's daily life upside down. Eating, writing, walking, talking, and other simple daily activities can be affected.
How Is Parkinson's Disease Treated?
Even though Parkinson's disease has no cure as of yet, some medications can significantly improve symptoms, especially in the early stages. Some doctors may suggest surgery that can help regulate some regions of the brain and improve symptoms.
In recent years, there have been significant changes in treatments for Parkinson's disease, according to Web MD. New drugs have been developed, and doctors better understand how to maximize older treatments. These developments make a big difference in the quality of life for Parkinson's patients.
One of the most common drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease is Levodopa (L-dopa). This drug works by helping to control symptoms of the disease like stiff and rigid body parts, and slow body movements. Another medication used to treat Parkinson's is Sinemet, which is a combination of two drugs: Levodopa and Carbidopa. Another add-on medication to treat the disease is Safinamide. When patients taking Levodopa and Carbidopa have symptoms that were previously controlled, Safinamide can help prolong the time that patients suffer no symptoms.
Side Effects Of Parkinson's Disease Medications
As with many medications used to treat diseases, there are often side effects. Common side-effects of Levodopa are vomiting, nausea, and irregular heartbeat rhythms. Sinemet it can raise the odds for some long-term problems like involuntary movements. With Safinamide, the side effects can include falling asleep and staying asleep, falls, nausea, and uncontrollable involuntary movements.
Cannabis And Parkinson's Disease
According to Parkinson.org, despite several clinical studies, it has not yet been shown that cannabis can directly benefit those with Parkinson's disease. However, the site also states that the use of cannabis has been suggested to help manage neurological and non-neurological conditions — however, the literature on medical marijuana is varied. Clinical studies conducted with cannabis as a potential treatment for Parkinson's did not use the trial gold standard of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial design. In some studies, there were as few as five subjects. Some results were positive, but the site states that more studies with more participants are needed.
Even though there might be some risk for Parkinson's patients using cannabis to experience things like dizziness, blurred vision, mood disorders, and other issues, there are some benefits that might still be helpful. Cannabis could help improve anxiety in patients. It might also help with appetite, nausea, and weight loss. Parkinson's patients can experience sleep disorders, and cannabis could be helpful with that.
Parkinson's Disease And Medical Marijuana Programs
Studies are still being conducted to discover just how beneficial cannabis may or may not be for Parkinson's patients. According to MichaelJFox.org, pre-clinical work and several studies funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation show that cannabinoids may protect brain cells through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms.
Michael J. Fox is an incredibly big star, but his Parkinson's disease diagnosis in 1991 at the age of 29 changed his life forever. He did not formally announce he had Parkinson's until 1998. It was then that he committed himself to campaign for an increase in Parkinson's research. The Michael J. Fox Foundation was created in 2000. It has raised more than 650 million for PD research. The actor has been a strong supporter of cannabis access so that more studies can be conducted.
Currently, 35 states have medical marijuana programs. However, at this time, only 13 of those states have Parkinson's disease listed as a qualifying condition for cannabis use. Those states include Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New York.