Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disease, with about 1 in every 1,000 people developing (PD) in their lifetime. The disease typically manifests during a patient’s 50s and 60s, although people as young as their early thirties have been diagnosed with PD. While there have been many studies to determine the cause of Parkinson’s disease, researchers are still not able to definitively explain what causes PD.
A recent study completed by researchers at the Danish Parkinson’s Disease Association and PROCRIN may have found a new link between PD and the gastrointestinal tract. The study determined that the disease may begin in the stomach and travel to the brain through the vagus nerve (a nerve that signals hunger and satiety to the brain and stomach). Of the 15,000 patients who had had a vagotomy- an alteration of the vagus nerve – the patients who had the nerve completely severed had a 50% lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s disease after 20 years. While the study is the first of its kind, its findings are compelling.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
While the main cause of PR is unknown, there are factors that seem to be linked to the loss of neurons in the brain, resulting in reduced dopamine levels and abnormal brain activity:
- Genetics. In very rare occasions specific gene mutations and gene variations have been associated with Parkinson’s.
- Environmental triggers. Certain toxins or environmental factors have been linked to Parkinson’s, although the risk is small.
- Brain changes. Lewy bodies, clumps of specific substances that mark the brain for PD, and alpha-synuclein, a protein found in Lewy bodies, may alter the way the brain acts.
Treatment of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease treatment typically falls into two categories: medication and surgery. Often, when medication has not been effective for treating the symptoms of PD, patients may be encouraged to consider a surgical option called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). During DBS surgery, a generator is implanted into the collarbone and electrodes are implanted onto the thalamus in the brain. The generator delivers small electric shocks through the electrodes to help control symptoms of Parkinson’s. Dr. Duma will work with you to pinpoint the appropriate amount of stimulation your brain will need.
Dr. Duma has been treating movement disorders since 1987, making him one of the most experienced in his field. To learn more about surgery for movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, please contact our office at 949-642-6787 or request an appointment with Dr. Duma.