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September 9, 2013

Neurologist: Parkinson's disease not a death sentence

Early diagnosis and treatments allow people to live more productive lives

ANDERSON, Ind. — News that pop music legend Linda Ronstadt is suffering from Parkinson’s disease may actually help people better understand the progressive disease, says one local neurologist.

“The biggest misconception people have is that if you have Parkinson’s that you should give up — that you are about to die,” said neurologist Dr. Caroline Stevens. “You can die from complications from Parkinson’s, but most people will die from something else before they die from the disease.”

Stevens said Ronstadt’s fame and popularity will increase public awareness of the disease, which is progressive in nature and impacts the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease normally occurs in those ages 60 to 70 and with more people living longer the number of people suffering from the disease is increasing.

In an article posted by AARP.org, Ronstadt, 67, says she was diagnosed with the disease eight months ago. The singer sold tens of millions of records in the 1970s with pop hits like “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved.” Ronstadt also blurred the lines of genre crossing over into country, pop and mariachi through her music.

Today, Ronstadt says she “can’t sing a note,” which Stevens said is a symptom of the disease. Stevens is a doctor of osteopathic medicine with Central Indiana Neurology PC, 2101 Jackson St., who practices medicine looking at the body as a whole, rather than treating just symptoms of a condition. She said individual symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease vary and can include speech problems such as a quieter voice. Initial symptoms also include slowness of movement, problems with balance, stiff muscles and tremors.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s can be difficult, Stevens said, because it affects much more than just a person’s movements. She said early diagnosis is important to treatment. Although a person’s genes play a role in developing the disease, some people diagnosed with Parkinson’s have no family history of the disease.

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