The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

September 9, 2013

Neurologist: Parkinson's disease not a death sentence

Early diagnosis and treatments allow people to live more productive lives



Ronstadt says she began to show symptoms as long as eight years ago, but attributed her inability to sing then to a tick disease. When her hands began to tremble, Ronstadt said she thought the shaking was the result of a shoulder operation.

She said she was “completely shocked” when she finally saw a neurologist and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million, billion years.”

Stevens said there are no blood tests or definitive testing for Parkinson’s disease and a diagnosis is based primarily on a person’s history and physical examinations. She said she has seen people who think they have the disease because they develop tremors and others with the disease who are tremor free.

“Just because you have tremors does not mean you have Parkinson’s,” she said.

While there is no cure for the disease, Stevens said, treatments include physical and speech therapies to allow people to live more productive lives.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, Parkinson’s disease costs Americans around $10.8 billion each year. This figure includes both direct medical expenses and indirect costs such as lost income, disability payments and medical costs.

Stevens said Parkinson’s disease can create significant disabilities, but there is also a social stigma attached to the disease when it affects a person’s physical appearance.

“You may need a walker or there are other symptoms that can make you look different,” she said.

Ronstadt joins a growing list of famous people who have been diagnosed with the disease and who continue to live productive lives including actor Michael J. Fox, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

“There are a lot of people in Anderson with Parkinson’s disease that still have a lot to offer their community,” she said.

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