President Trump’s gait as he navigated down a ramp at West Point this weekend stirred rumors that he was suffering from a neurodegenerative disease.
Videos went viral of him carefully descending down the ramp and then quickly moving off of it and into a more relaxed gait.
Yet some thought he was “shuffling” similar to those who have Parkinson’s.
However his gait appeared normal after he reached flat ground, devoid of any guarded, shuffling steps.
Descending down a ramp is much more difficult that ascending one and people can trip easily if they don’t watch their step.
So if I was President and had millions of eyes watching me navigate down a steep ramp, I’d take it very slow and careful too.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, next to Alzheimer’s, and the most common movement disorder that affects 1% of the world’s population over 60 years old. In the US, 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It affects several areas of the brain, primarily the substantia nigra, altering balance and movement by affecting dopamine producing cells.
IMAGE FROM THE SCIENCE OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE
It was first described in 1817 by James Parkinson as a “shaking palsy.”
What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s?
Common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Stiffness and rigidity
- Poor balance
- Tremor at rest, especially a pill-rolling tremor
- Slow movement
- Inability to move
- Shuffling steps, gait
and patients may later develop…
- Memory loss
- Decrease ability to smell
- Difficulty swallowing
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fractures from falling
Who is at Risk for Parkinson’s?
Most cases are idiopathic, meaning the disease arises with no specific cause. However some cases are genetic and multiple genes have been identified that are associated with the disease.
The average age of onset is 60, but some cases may occur as “early onset”, before the age of 50, and if before the age of 20, it is known as juvenile-onset Parkinson’s.
Men appear to be more affected than women at twice the rate.
Risk may be enhanced with a history of head trauma.
Exposure to herbicides and pesticides has been linked to an increase risk of Parkinson’s as well.
How Quickly do Parkinson’s Symptoms Progress?
Average progression rates can last years to decades, however, earlier onset disease may manifest much quicker.
The stages of Parkinson’s are illustrated below:
How is Parkinson’s treated?
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, symptoms can be treated by a variety of measures.
- Levadopa – converts to dopamine in the brain, helping replace the deficient hormone.
- Carbidopa (Sinemet) – if given with levadopa prevents the latter from being broken down before it reaches the brain.
- Dopamine agonists – mimic dopamine
- MAO-B inhibitors – helps block the enzyme MAO-B, which breaks down natural dopamine
- Other medications including COMT inhibitors, amantadine and anticholinergics
- Medications to treat anxiety and depression
- Deep brain stimulation – a surgeon implants electrodes into the brain, allowing stimulation of parts that help regulate movement.
- Stem cell therapy – being investigated as a means to create dopamine-producing cells
- Physical and occupational therapy
Famous People Diagnosed with Parkinson’s
- Michael J. Fox
- Janet Reno
- Robin Williams
- Muhammad Ali
- Casey Kasem
- Johnny Cash
- Linda Ronstadt
- Pope John Paul II
- Peanut’s creator Charles Schulz
- Rev. Jesse Jackson
- Neil Diamond
- Ozzy Osbourne
It’s been postulated Adolf Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s as well.