Parkinson's Disease: The Alien in My Brain
How My Symptoms Started
Parkinson's conditions are varied. Some people will have mild symptoms while others will have disabling symptoms, but it is not spread in the usual way disease is spread.
My symptoms started much like the video describes. My left thumb began tapping when I rested my hand on the arm of a chair or desk. This went on for several years, and I thought nothing of it. I also had DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis1 in that thumb and wore a stainless steel splint called a Murphy ring.
Eventually, and only after I retired early due to spinal stenosis, my whole left hand began to tremor. Now the tremor is present in both hands, I have leg pain and trouble balancing while walking. The onset of these symptoms took about five years.
I hear a rhythm in the tremor. I can hold my hand up to cup my ear, and I can hear the electrical pulses going through my hand. I don't know any other way to describe it, but I had a nurse listen to the palm of my hand with a stethoscope, and she was able to hear it also.
I was referred to a neurologist, a doctor specializing in the human brain. She told me at the time that I had Parkinson's Tremors and she started me on the gold standard first medication, Sinemet (brand name) or carbidopa/levodopa (generic name).
This medication did not change my symptoms or make me feel better. I consulted with my primary physician, an ER physician, and another doctor I know. They told me that if the Sinemet did not work, that what I have is "essential tremor," not Parkinson's tremor. So I went on my merry way, thinking I had dodged a bullet.
Two years later I went to see the neurologist again as my symptoms worsened. She sent me for a DAT scan, similar to an MRI. Two weeks later, I have the definitive diagnosis of Parkinson's Condition. This is where I meet the alien for the first time.
How My Brain Scans Looked
A normal brain scan on the left shows the typical "comma" shape highlighted in the picture of the substantia nigra2.
In the middle photo, the substantia nigra part of the brain is not comma-shaped, and the tail shape is gone. It looks like two alien eyes staring at you.
The image on the right shows that none of the substantia nigra has taken up the radioactive element, because none of it is active anymore. This is advanced Parkinson's Condition.
The substantia nigra area of the brain activates dopamine. Dopamine carries the electrical signals from the brain to the muscles and nerves. Without these dopamine-producing cells, the muscles and nerves do not get a full signal of what to do. Instead, the signals are distorted and the end result is abnormal movements of the peripheral and autonomic muscles and nerves.
Tip: If you are scheduled for a DAT scan, and you have prescription Xanax, ask the radiologist if you can take one before the scan. It will help with the shaking. The test is very uncomfortable for patients with tremors and it's best to be as still as possible. This is why Parkinson's Disease is sometimes called the "shaking" disease. Other names include palsy and tremors.
Your symptoms and what treatments you respond to may differ from mine.
- tremor of left hand progressing to left arm, and right hand
- tremor of left foot
- pain in calves and thighs compared to "charlie horse" pain, slow walking
- left hip pain diagnosed as bursitis
- loss of balance
- trouble falling asleep
- increased anxiety
- discomfort in the neck and jaw
My Personal Results With Parkinson's Medication
My Side Effects and Results
nausea, hallucinations, jerky movements
made tremors worse, jerky movements, extreme sleepiness
dyslexia, made tremors worse, hallucinations
dizziness, mild hallucinations
dizziness with relief of muscle spasms
Morphine sulfate, hydrocodone
pain relief, anxiety relief, some tremor relief
sleep aid, some tremor relief
Near immediate relief of anxiety and some relief of tremors. Warning! Do not take with opiates!
Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS, is the treatment with the most success so far.
This involves small electrodes inserted into the brain's Substantia Negra to stimulate dopamine production. The patient will also have a battery pack under the skin to power the electrodes.
This is not a cure, but it appears to be very effective in stopping the tremors and walking problems.
How common is Parkinson's Disease?
Do you or someone you know have Parkinson's Condition?
- DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis- "De Quervain's tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis) is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, it will probably hurt when you turn your wrist, grasp anything or make a fist. Although the exact cause of de Quervain's tenosynovitis isn't known, any activity that relies on repetitive hand or wrist movement — such as working in the garden, playing golf or racket sports, or lifting your baby — can make it worse. "https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/de-quervains-tenosynovitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371332 Patient Care & Health Information; Diseases & Conditions; Mayo Clinic; Sunday, February 24, 2019, 3:32:16 PM
- Sustantia Nigra - Substantia nigra - Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantia_nigra Sunday, February 24, 2019
- WebMD Drugs & Medications - Medical information on prescription drugs, vitamins and over-the-counter medicines - https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/index February 26, 2019
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Lela