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Published on April 21, 2014

University Hospital Movement Disorders Specialist Raises Awareness of Parkinson's Disease

COLUMBIA, Mo. - According to the National Parkinson's Foundation, approximately one million Americans currently are living with Parkinson's disease. That number increases by almost 60,000 new cases each year.

"Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative condition that progresses slowly," said Irving Asher, M.D., director of University Hospital's Movement Disorders Program and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "Although the disease itself is not fatal, complications from Parkinson's can be."

Parkinson's disease occurs when the brain stops making an important chemical called dopamine. This chemical helps the body move and controls temperament. The disorder is chronic and progressive, with no known cure. Instead, therapy is directed toward reducing the symptoms associated with the disease.

Although symptoms differ for each patient, the most common include:

  • Tremor or shaking while at rest
    Decreased amount or speed of movement
  • Shuffling or foot dragging while walking
  • Decreased facial expression
  • Balance issues that were not present before

"Each patient has symptoms that are individual to that person," said Asher. "For that reason, there is no standard protocol for treating someone with the disorder. While medication or surgical approaches are the methods we use most often, other tactics may include lifestyle modifications such as exercise."

Other forms of treatment may also include physical and speech therapy.

"Patients suffering from complex, chronic illnesses such as Parkinson's really benefit from an interdisciplinary team approach that provides personalized treatment," said Asher. "Our movement disorders program includes not only neurologists and neurosurgeons, but also nurses, as well as physical and speech therapists. Our team approach is designed to provide holistic care for each of our Parkinson's patients."

Asher encourages anyone who feels they have symptoms consistent with Parkinson's disease to speak with his or her physician.

"Early diagnosis and treatment not only makes a big difference in quality of life issues, but can also minimize the complications associated with the disease," said Asher.

For more information about Parkinson's disease or to schedule an appointment, please call (573) 882-1515.