Excerpt from INTRODUCTION

Published October 7, 2016

I Am Rock Steady: Fighting Back Against Parkinson’s Disease | Julie Young

Excerpt from INTRODUCTION:

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous
system that affects one’s ability to move. The condition
occurs when the neurons in the substantia nigra
portion of the brain die off, rendering it unable to produce
and deliver dopamine to the rest of the organ. Although it is
unclear what causes the death of these neurons, several factors
are believed to play a part, including one’s genes, environment,
mental triggers, and the presence of Lewy bodies—specific material
within one’s brain cells that are tiny markers for the condition.

Parkinson’s affects 7–10 million people worldwide and
typically begins when one is middle-aged or older, although
it can occur in someone much younger. Michael J. Fox, for
example, was diagnosed at the age of 29. Parkinson’s develops
gradually and often begins with slight, nearly imperceptible
signs such as a small tremor in one hand or leg, or
along one side of the body. Other early symptoms include
stiffness in the limbs, slowed movement, and lack of facial
expression. Although the individual indicators may vary and
no two cases are exactly alike, patients may experience
painful muscle spasms, may struggle with a lack of coordination,
and may find themselves unable to perform basic tasks. They are
prone to depression and falls and, in the later stages, may experience
delusions and have difficulty swallowingfood.