battling stigma in PD, Parkinson's awereness, parkinson's disease

Raising PD awareness ONE shuffling Step at a time. : By Dr. De Leon

As we approach a New Year, I am more determined than ever to continue the fight against Parkinson’s disease both on a personal level as well as a collective effort. As a physician, and patient I have been privy to many extraordinary advances in the understanding of this complex illness over the last decade. However, 2016 saw rise of a new movement towards better understanding the differences among us all (those of us with Parkinson’s), in an attempt to try to find a unifying link that will lead us one step closer to a cure- if not for all perhaps for a number of  distinct subtypes (e.g. LRKK2). There is the large PD study being supported in part by the PDF which aims to unveil different genetic information causing Parkinson’s disease among various ethnic populations (particularly looking at Hispanics with PD).

We also have begun to recognize the importance of gender in the presentation and I believe soon we will also realize that age also plays a factor adding another piece to the puzzle. We have learned that non-motor symptoms are just as/or more important to recognize and treat because not only do they start 10-15 years before motor symptoms; but also can often be the major cause of disability and decreased quality of life. we got several new formulations of old drugs e.g. Rytary and are anxiously awaiting new ones to come out like inhaled levodopa (Accorda) and sublingual Apo morphine.  We saw strengthening of the commitment for a cure as organizations merged (NPF & PDF; MJfox & PAN). We mourned the loss of one of the greatest, Muhammad Ali, who is as much a hero outside as inside of the boxing ring- although, his legacy of courage under fire will live on.

Yet, I am afraid that we have just begun to scratch the surface of one of the most intricate neurological diseases known. One way in which we can continue to peel the layers is by raising awareness nationally as well as globally. The world Parkinson’s congress held this year in Portland brought more diversity than years past helping to disseminate information at a faster rate. We have to take advantage of the fact that the biggest sources of information in any disease especially neurological diseases is not from any doctor’s office but rather from other patients like ourselves. This is especially true in the Hispanic community. So, in order to ensure that accurate information is disseminated is for all of us to share the knowledge we possess with people in the health sciences and healthcare fields and begin an open communication to begin filling in the gaps both sides have. Only when you merge the knowledge can we have effective advocacy to disseminate sound information that will truly elevate and help live a more productive, healthier, happier life despite PD. In the absence of this we will continue to have discrepancies in diagnosis which is only harmful to us the patients and our families.

In light of this, how do we then begin to raise awareness along with the standard of care for the families and nearly 10 million people who live with Parkinson’s worldwide?

I would say that the seed to help others understand the in’s and out’s of PD starts with self-love. First, we need to accept our diagnosis not really liking it but just as another life experience from which we can learn and grow from. Don’t get me wrong just because I have accepted living with PD does not mean I am not doing my best to kick its hinny, or that I don’t get worried or frustrated about being forgetful, unable to multi-task, care for my daughter at times, or even practice my beloved profession. However, by owning our disease we can then become an asset to others who come after us, as I have attempted to do over the past few years. Not only can we educate each other and to our physicians by opening up about the things that embarrassing, frustrating, down right infuriating at times, as well as the things that matter most to us in life and in battling this illness, leaving aside the shame which only serves in my experience to make life more difficult.

However, I understand that sometimes we are best able to start the conversations of salient matters in a more intimate setting like a support group. As many of you know from personal experience, support groups are the veins of the vine, the life line to living well with PD and bringing insight back to the health care professionals and vice versa.

Yet, the reality is that not everyone has access to a support group because of distance, economics, place of residence, etc.  Thus, how does one have access to this? Of course there is always social media which can bridge any socio-economic or distance. Another option is starting your own group if you prefer something more intimate, personal and face to face which affords the benefit of having closer people in the same community to lean on when times get tough, because we all know it takes a village to make PD work for us.

Few tips to finding and starting a support group:

First, find one where you feel loved, comfortable, and free to be yourself …where your needs will be addressed, in social media or in your community or both. These groups can make a difference between a barely bearable existences to one worth living to the fullest.

So how do you become involved with one of these? IMG_0001.JPG

Look around at your community to see if there are some groups already established. Ask your friends, your health care communities, the various Parkinson’s organizations, go online. If there are multiple groups in which you are interested attend a few or all to get a feel of the vibes…

For instance if you are young person with PD, you might prefer to join a young support group, a women’s group (because gender issues are different especially if child rearing), or single people with PD, or even one based on PD status like already had DBS (deep brain stimulation) and such. I, myself, truly enjoy meeting with other women with and without PD because independent of our health status most of us share same goals and life challenges like working and having kids, being a mother, a wife etc. Sometimes we simply feel more comfortable in expressing ourselves or talking about sensitive issues if we are surrounded by similar minded individuals. But, above all choose wisely. Stay open to others ideas.

If no such group is available that touches your heart or seems to meet your needs at the present time consider starting a group of your own.

However, before you take such an undertaking seriously think about your health, your time constraints and more important your physical limitations. Is this going to put undue stress on your physical and emotional well-being? Can you handle the responsibility alone or would having one or two people to co-create and share responsibilities for the group work better?

Think about:

  1. How often do you want to meet and where? Monthly, quarterly etc. keep in mind meeting on a scheduled basis is easier to remember and have greater attendance.
  2. How are meetings going to take place- have guests all the time ( this can create a lot of work for one person), or once in a while like special events, are the group going to be free to talk about issues or one person is going to lead?
  3. Is there a need in your community which has been unmet
  4. Is the place accessible to people you are trying to reach? Look for large rooms that are free like a public library, assisted living, nursing home, or hospital conference room. But, make sure this place has good parking, handicap accessibility and preferably access to public transportation.
  5. Time of day for meeting is also extremely important which has to take into account the age group of people trying to reach, are they retired or employed, can they drive themselves or need rides?
  6. Are you opening the group to patients only, caregivers only, both?
  7. What are the meetings going to look like? A lecturer/guest speaker? Open exchange of information, stories? Both? Participate in activities like painting or singing?
  8. How do you plan to get word out to community? Flyers to doctors, place ads in newspapers – note: some communities allow free advertisement, also may get help from hospital, nursing homes, assisted living etc. A web page/ social media can be the easiest most affordable way of getting word out. But, don’t forget about the old phone which always works among the elderly and some groups.

If you are reading this then you are already involved most likely in a support group or perhaps still feel isolated now you have some basic information to help you start the New Year on a positive note knowing full well that you are loved, you matter and are not alone and together we are going to make 2017 the BEST year possible by breaking down barriers one small shuffling step at a time!

Happy New Year 2017!!!

All the best from the desk of Dr. De Leon a.k.a. Parkinson’s Diva

Stay tune for my new book coming out next year-

@copyright  2017

all rights reserved by Maria De Leon MD

 

 

Parkinsons disease, parkinsons health and beauty tips

Melanoma Awareness & Tips for Prevention: By Dr. De Leon

maca

Let the Sea Cleanse You

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” ~ Rainer Maria  Rilke

It is important to realize that melanoma is one of the most common types  of skin cancer which are prone to become life threatening if not treated early. These forms of cancer can happen even in dark skin individuals and occur in places not directly exposed to the sun. Therefore, as we draw to the end of Melanoma awareness moth and summer months are about to begin (at least here in the Western Hemisphere), I would like to remind everyone of the importance of knowing the risk factors as well as encouraging everyone to have routine check-ups by a dermatologists. After all, melanoma is a curable type of skin cancer if detected early with a 100% success rate.

Some groups of people such as Parkinson’s patients appear to have an increase risk of developing this type of skin cancer.

Although, the exact mechanism for increase risk in PD is not well understood; yet there is a 2- 4 increase risk in those who have Parkinson’s of acquiring melanomas.

 Sign’s of Melanoma:

Know your ABCDE’s

A-asymmetry– the mole does not look the SAME on both sides.

   

B-border– the mole is irregular or scalloped.

C- color– dark color varying from one side to another with varying shades of tan, brown or black, these sometimes can be white, red or blue ( which could be a sign of an even more malignant and aggressive type of cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma).

 

D-diameter -these are typically the size of a pencil eraser ~ 6mm but can be smaller – (take it from me – I have had several diagnosed some smaller and some much bigger! So know your body and do frequent checks especially best to  evaluate moles is in the winter and best to do in your birthday suit at least every six months. (excerpt from Parkinson’s Diva: A Woman’s Guide to Parkinson’s Disease)

 

E- Evolving– any skin mole that appears different from the rest or any lesion that looks like is changing (evolving) in color, shape, or size needs to be looked at immediately by a Dermatologists.

Symptoms of Melanoma:

Usually they are asymptomatic especially in early stages.

Watch out for moles that:

  • bleed
  • itch
  • painful to touch
  • bruises that won’t heal
  • brown or black streak underneath a toe nail or finger nail

Risk for Melanoma:

  • men
  • older than 50
  • having 50 plus moles, unusual  looking moles, and having large moles
  • having fair skin (e.g. blond hair, blue eyes)
  • sun-sensitive skin (easily burns, rarely tans)
  •  previous history of using tanning beds or had a previous bad sun burn
  •  weakened immune system
  • family history of melanomas
  • personal history of skin cancer especially melanomas
  • having PD -especially LRRK2 gene

Tips for Prevention of Melanoma:

If you have had a melanoma you have a 5x greater risk of developing melanoma! so frequent exams at home and at your dermatologists are key to prevention!

  • Do not do tanning indoors or outdoors- indoor tanning increases risk of melanoma 75%.
  • examine your skin regularly- enlist the help of a loved one for those hard to reach places. make sure you check your feet, palms, soles, toenails, fingernails, genital regions, and your scalp.
  • keep eye appointments regularly because melanoma can also affect the eyes.
  • get free screening -usually the American Academy of Dermatology gives several FREE screens during the spring throughout the US.
  • if you see any of the abc’s during any of these evaluations call your dermatologist’s immediately.
  • spend time outdoors when the sun and UV light is less intense before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. (in the US)
  • use sun block lotions liberally. Make sure you use proper sunscreen. No natural products because they are not safe to stop damage from UVA & AVB rays.
  • wear sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Make sure that the sunscreen you choose contains ingredients like Titanium Dioxide, or Zinc Oxide. The SPF 15 or higher is only for UVB protection; A SPF 30 or higher is recommended for those of us who have Parkinson’s because of our increased risk factor. There is no rating to tell us how good something is against UVA.
  •  Apply sunscreen  at least 30 minutes before you go in the sun. Don’t forget to apply under your make up, feet, between your toes, tip of ears, nose and lips (use lip balm with UV protection) as well as back of legs and neck.

Sources:
“The association between Parkinson’s disease and melanoma;” International Journal of Cancer; 128, 2251-2260 (2011)

https://http://www.aad.org/…/diseases-and-treatments/m—p/melanoma
parkinson's disease, parkinsons health and beauty tips

Consejos De Belleza #16 ¿Que es el Parkinsons? por La Dra. De Leon

¿Qué es la enfermedad del Parkinson?

La enfermedad del Parkinson es un trastorno crónico y progresivo el cual produce movimientos anormales causado por la falla o falta o muerte de vitales células vitales nerviosas en el cerebro, llamadas neuronas. Algunas de Eestas células moribundas producen dopamina, una químicao llamada dopamina que envía mensajes a la parte del cerebro que controla el movimiento y la coordinación. A medida que la enfermedad progresa, la cantidad de dopamina producida en el cerebro se reduce, dejando a la persona sin capacidad de controlar sus movimientos normales- antes se especulaba que al principio de la enfermedad ya se habia perdido mas de 60% de las cellulas dopaminergicas pero en los recientes años los cientificos nos han dado ESPERANZA de poder aliviar o combater esta enfermedad porque hoy se estima que al comienzo de los sintomas solo el 20% se ha perdido o no funciona adecuada mente!!!

Los signos motores más importantes de la enfermedad de Parkinson incluyen temblores, lentitud, rigidez, inestabilidad en la postura, así como otros síntomas no motores [estos incluyen síntomas como falta de olfato, problemas con el sueño, depresion, constipacion, problemas con el orine , dolor y fatigua corporal].

¿Cuántas personas viven actualmente con la enfermedad del Parkinson?

A nivel mundial, se estima que hay entre siete y 10 millones de personas viviendo con la enfermedad del Parkinson. En los Estados Unidos (EE.UU.), se estima aproximadamente un millón de personas viviendo en con la misma enfermedad, este numero representa una cifra más grande que el número combinado de personas que padecen de esclerosis múltiple, distrofia muscular y esclerosis lateral amiotrófica (la enfermedad de Lou Gehrig). Aproximadamente 60,000 Eestadounidenses son diagnosticados con el Parkinsons cada año. Este número no refleja los miles de casos que permanecen sin ser aun detectados.

¿Cuales son los síntomas motores de esta enfermedad ?

1) Temblor al estar en reposo- este puede o no ser el mayor síntoma – como todos los otros síntomas empieza unilateralmente pero a medida que avanza la enfermedad se transforma bilateral pero siempre mas predominante en el lado que empezó. Por lo general empieza en la mano pero puede empezar en el pie esto es menos común.

2) Rigidez -tiene que haber rigidez, al igual que los temblores este también empieza unilateral y después avanza. Por lo general la rigidez es mas fuerte en el lado contrario de donde los temblores son mas fuertes. Al principio a causa de la rigidez los pacientes pueden presentar con dolor muscular (esto ocurre en 10% o menos), también puede presentarse como debilidad muscular por causa de la rigidez y esto puede imitar un infarto o embolia cerebral por ser unilateral! también a causa de la rigidez uno necesita mas fuerza para hacer la misma actividad y de pronto dar la apariencia que uno esta perdiendo fuerzas del lado afectado, algunos pacientes presentan dolor en el hombro del lado mas rigido – o el lado donde empiezan los síntomas esto hace que aveces vayan a ver varios otros especialistas como ortopédicos antes de ser diagnosticados apropiadamente por un neurologo.

3) Lentitud de movimientos (Bradykinesia)- de repente unos notan que no pueden empezar los movimientos voluntarios e involuntarios con la misma rapidez que antes. Por ejemplo notan mas dificultad para pararse de una silla especialmente si han permanecido sentados por largo tiempo o la silla esta muy baja y tienden a usar otros músculos para levantarse o tener que menearse para poder arrancar hacia el frente …se balancean hacia el frente y atrás o usan los brazos de la silla para asistirse a levantarse.

4) Problemas de balance (instabilidad de posturas o desequilibrio) – a medida que la enfermedad va avanzando también este problema se va empeorando lo que causa que los pacientes o personas que padecen de este problema tengan mas propensión a caerse. Esto porque el centro de gravedad se va haciendo mas al frente a medida que las personas se van encorvando hacia el frente por causa de la rigidez muscular. Una forma simple de evaluar si las personas tienen buen balance es cuando ( por lo general el doctor o especialista) se pone detrás del paciente cuando el paciente esta descansando parado con las piernas un poco separadas y el doctor dan un tirón hacia adelante y hacia atrás sin que la persona pierda el balance. Lo mismo puede hacerse de frente.

¿Cuales son los síntomas del Parkinson?

Como dije antes el diagnostico esta basado en la presentación de los cuatro síntomas cardenales pero no todos tienen todos los síntomas en la misma proporción. Ademas también hay otros síntomas nombrados no -motores que no son causados por la deficiencia de la dopamina como la perdida de olfato, depresión, constipación, ansiedad, problemas del sueño y movimientos de las piernas por nombrar algunos y la presentación de estos hace que cada individuo sea diferente. También hay dos tipos de Parkinson uno que es caracterizado por el temblor ( temblor dominante) y otro que tiene muy poco o muy leve los temblores ( akinetic o sea falta de movimiento caracterizado mas por rigidez y problemas de postura y balance).

¿Cuales son los síntomas no-motores?

Ya mencione unos pocos….anteriormente

Aparte de los cuatro síntomas documentados anteriormente que son la base del diagnostico del Parkinson, hay otros síntomas que también forman parte del cuadro clínico causados por deficiencias de otras químicas en el cerebro aparte de la dopamina. Estos síntomas ( muchos de ellos pueden presentarse hasta 20 años antes del diagnostico mucho antes de que los temblores o la rigidez de principio).

-constipación
-problemas de orine
-disturbio de sueño
-depresión y ansiedad
-dificultad de deglutir
-alucinaciones y psicosis
-problemas de cognición
-baja presión y mareos
-problemas con la visión o sequedad de ojos
-problemas con sexo
-frecuencia de salivación
-aumento de sudor

¿Cual es la causa de la enfermedad?

La causa exacta todavía se desconoce en la mayoría de las personas que padecen de esta enfermedad..una porción pequeña es causada por ciertos problemas genéticos. Pero a la verdad es que hay muchos factores que contribuyen y hasta el momento todos se desconocen… Pero factores como toxinas en el medio ambiente desempeñan un gran papel, también hay una porción pequeña de Parkinson que es conocida mejormente como familiar o hereditaria.

¿Cuales son los factores que aperentemente contribuyen al de riesgo de contraer el Parkinson?

El hecho de vivir o crecer en áreas rurales aumenta el riesgo de contraer Parkinsons. Los estudios han demostrados que las toxinas y pesticidas pueden aumentar los riesgos, al igual que beber agua de noria. Por cieto hay cietas areas que son conocidas como” el cinturon del Parkinson” por la alta frecuencia de pacientes en estos lugares…unos de estas areas es aqui en el ESTE de TEXAS se especula que es por cause de las quimicas de las industrias de papel…..Por hecho También ultimamente han habido unos estudios que parecen indicar que ciertas razas como ser Hispano portiend emas riesgo que cualquier otro -el porque todavia no se sabe…estaremos al pendiente de estos estudios en adelante pare aver si son ciertos y ver la causa aligual de como resolver el problema.
También golpes ala cabeza contribuyen al riesgo.

¿Cuales son los factores Genéticos que contribuyen al Parkinsons?

La mayoría de la gente que padece del Parkinsons no tiene ninguna anormalidad genetica hasta hoy conocida. Algunas personas se especula que estan mas vulnerables a causa de su composición genética y atraves del tiempo pueden padecer un insulto a su organism ya sea por el medio ambiente o trauma y esto los desbalancea a medida que no pueden recuperar se del insulto y alli se desemvuelve la enfermedad como una basura que no puede ser eliminada y a medida que va pasando el tiempo por tartar de sacarla y qumarla y arrestar su desarrolo eso mismo hace que cresca hacia puede bien ser el papel de la proteina alpha synuclein que parece estar mal formada y doblada en la enfermedad del Parkinson …..pero aun no se sabe todavia cual exactamente es su papel en el desarrollo de la enfermedad precisamente.
Toda regllas tienen una excepción y la excepción son las personas que contraen la enfermedad en temprana edad antes de los 50 años (<10%). En estos casos la genética tiene más influencia.
Los investigadores han descubierto varias mutaciones genéticas que pueden causar directamente la enfermedad, pero estas solo afectan a un pequeño número de familias. Algunas de estas mutaciones involucran a genes que tienen un papel en las funciones de las células dopaminérgicas. La enfermedad del Parkinson que se desarrolla a temprana edad tienden a tener mutaciones en los genes parkin, PINK1, LRRK2, DJ-1, y glucocerebrosidasa, entre otros. ( Todavia no se sabe si estos forman parte de la enfermedad clasica del Parkinson que afecta principalmente a personas mayores de 55 años y tienden al sexo masculino…..pero mi observacion hasta el dia de hoy me ha indicado que especialmente aqullos que son diagnosticados antes de los 40 tienden hacer del sexo femenino….no hay estudios tyodavia ….esto es solo mi observacion).

Puesto que las formas genéticas de una enfermedad pueden ser estudiadas con gran detalle en el laboratorio, y porque el comprender las raras formas genéticas del Parkinson podría ayudar a entender formas más comunes de la enfermedad, la genética es actualmente sujeto de intensa investigación.

¿ Por qué es que el Parkinson es tan mal interpretado?

Hay ciertos medicamentos que pueden imitar o causar el Parkinson. Este tipo de medicinas son algunas que causan o bloquean los receptores de la dopamina en el cerebro. Por lo general cuando estos factores son removidos los síntomas desaparecen igualmente. Algunas medicinas que causan síntomas similares están en la página 13. Nunca paren de tomar sus medicinas repentinamente sin consultar con su médico. Si usted ha estado tomando alguna de estas medicinas y cree experimentar algunos de los síntomas relacionados con el Parkinson …llame a su médico de inmediato.
Cada persona progresa de manera diferente. Por lo general esta enfermedad no acorta la extensión de vida -pero tiene varias etapas (leve a severo)…la etapa severa se entra después de los 15 a 20 años por lo general. Pero todos toleran las medicinas diferentemente, y son diagnosticados a varias etapas y presentan con síntomas diferentes. Por ejemplo, en general los que tienen temblor dominante (avanzan más lento) y otros que son categorizados como akinetic o predominantemente rigidos( poco temblor- estos tienden a progresar de manera más rápida).
En la última etapa o etapa avanzada de la enfermedad las personas tienen más problemas para caminar porque son más lentos, y se les pegan los pies al suelo, se caen con mas frecuencia y tambien tienen mas dificultar para hablar y trajar al igual que requieren de mayor asistencia para hacer sus quiaceres cotidiadonos porque tienen más dificultad para usar sus manos. Estos tienden a tener más riesgo a contraer pulmonías por causa de aspiración. El 40% al 50% también empieza a tener dificultad con la memoria y pueden desarrollar demencia.
A pesar de que hasta el día de hoy no existe un tratamiento definitivo que pueda curar todos los síntomas, hay varios medicamentos que ayudan a mantener la función y calidad de vida. Entre más activo sea el individuo y participe activamente en su salud mejor éxito tendrá de combatir la enfermedad. Pero principalmente lo que ayuda a un paciente que padece del Parkinson aparte de tener una red social y familiar bien fundada es tener un especialista del Parkinson. Los estudios han demostrado que aquellos que son atentidos por un especialista tienen major calidad de vida y tambien es ecencial empezar tratamiento cuanto antes y no esperarse a progresar porque puede ser muy tarde.

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Dr. M. De Leon is a retired movement disorder specialist, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF; Texas state assistant director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org

parkinsons health and beauty tips

Health & Beauty Tips #12: Creativity & Parkinson’s Disease by Dr. De Leon

Health & Beauty Tips #11 Living a Full Life with PD by Dr. De Leon

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way!” -Edward de Bono

The biggest challenged we all face in living with this illness is the disconnection that occurs gradually between our of minds and our bodies! How do you survive? Much less thrive in a world designed for the abled not the disabled?  When each one of us still has dreams, ambitions, goals, families to raise, jobs and careers to pursue?

The answer lies perhaps in the brains ability to cope and form new connections from one neuron to another bypassing old defective ones! This is accomplished by the gift many have discovered after starting treatment with L- dopa and dopamine agonists.

This is what makes our Journey with Parkinson’s disease so very interesting.  When we are tested to our limits , we must find a way to rise above our circumstances despite our not so cooperative or disabled bodies to live and be happy!
We have all heard the old adage;   “necessity is the mother of invention or innovation!” When the roads between the neurons are obstructed or no longer functioning to full “speed” or “capacity” we feel the need to find another mean of  arriving at the same destination in a place where we feel valued, unique and useful! After all being able to express ourselves in a singular fashion is what differentiates us from the rest of the animal world.

So, thank goodness that for a great number of us that have PD the principal treatment with dopamine replacement has created a much debated phenomenon- artistic expression.
Recently, there has been a great deal of talk and interest in this new phenomenon known as “artistic expressivity” in Parkinson patients.  There is a great debate among experts as to the origin because it is not entirely clear if this is de novo expression  or simply a surge of dormant innate talent. Although there are several theories one thing is for sure -all the increase in artistic phenomenology appears to be related to the intake of dopamine both L-Dopa and dopamine agonists. There have been reports of de novo sculptures and painters who previously had no experience or training prior to onset of disease as well as reports of increase desire to create and express themselves through whichever means possible whether that be through music, writing, humor or painting.

One theory proposes that this occurs due to a  sudden release from social inhibitions due to the effect of the dopamine or because dopamine is not only involved in motor control but in “pleasure and reward center” being able to achieve a new goal and have a new purpose may have its own unique drive!

Others opine that simply adding the medication allows them to become more artistically sensitive because they experience a greater desire to create when the dosage of dopamine increases.

In my profession, I always had to be logical and concise in my diagnosis and decision making but the inherent drive to always look at the bigger picture and take a holistic approach to life and medicine was always present. I have always loved color and admired great works of art even if I never considered myself as being “artistic.” However, interestingly about the time I began to develop Parkinson symptoms I noticed I became much more bolder in my color schemes both in my home and office. At the time, I was building a new office which I helped to design. Turned out to be not just colorful, but uniquely bold. It was designed around my Parkinson patient’s and other patients needs in mind but not lacking any flair of personality and air of museum!  Needless to say doctors offices around here have never been the same ever since. I started a trend- Before I sold my office, we even considered highlighting it in architects digest. But, since I was so ill all the décor was taken off before we could take pictures! My patients and drug reps and others used to comment on the décor and were always surprised to find out it was all my design. They even started suggesting that I have a separate desk for interior designing consultations…

So for me, I think it brings out the innate talents to the surface that somehow you once were to afraid to express!

No matter the reason  for the increase in artistic expressivity, I agree with the experts,  that the therapeutic value is immeasurable. This form of helping the brain cope with substantial losses has already been explored in other neurologic diseases like (vascular) dementias and strokes. Similarly, this type of “art therapy’  could hold great benefit to Parkinson patients helping them circumnavigate the motor problems or deficits. Thanks to the external stimuli the once impaired motor skills ( e.g. not able to button shirt or feed oneself) consumed by tremors, or rigidity or severe bradykenesia can become normal or almost normal when engaging in this type of therapy -like painting or sculpting. Allowing patients to perform fine motor skills not otherwise able to achieve in their normal activities. But the greatest benefit derived from allowing one to express itself artistically is the psychological and physiological well being that brings forth to all patients with Parkinson. Furthermore, being able to create makes people happy and provides hope while temporarily allowing one to forget about one’s own disabilities.

Because I have seen the value of “art therapy” in other neurological disease, I firmly believe that opening oneself to this type of expression is not only psychologically beneficial. But, I firmly believe this may be the key to longevity and perhaps slowing down the disease process by the building of new connections – recruiting unused brain to take over the function of those parts no longer functioning well! This is just my theory- but for years we thought NOTHING could be done for STROKE patients until we discovered the power of rehab and although the infarcted (dead) brain usually does not recover a great deal of recovery goes on physically on an individual basis. We already know exercise seems to help the Parkinson patient- I think of art therapy and artistic expression as mental exercise!

So, go ahead don’t be shy start a new painting,  music or writing class or whatever else makes you happy and allows you to use your fine motor skills! Engage your kids, grandkids…the more the merrier!

Remember, being Happy It’s all a matter of perspective……
Is the glass half empty or half full?… a dear sweet friend of mine, who also had Parkinson’s disease, …. thought me- WHO CARES?!!! just BE HAPPY YOU HAVE A GLASS WITH SOMETHING IN IT!!!!

As doctor Gene Cohen would say;  “art is like chocolate for the brain” and if chocolate has similar characteristics to dopamine-the essential deficient chemical in Parkinson patients then by all means let us continue expressing ourselves artistically to continue battling this chronic illness avoiding spiritual, mental and moral decay and find a greater quality of living  for us and our loved ones!

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Dr. M. De Leon is a retired movement disorder specialist, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF; Texas state assistant director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at http://www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org

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