Monthly Archives: August 2013

Look beyond Parkinson’s when symptoms change quickly

Tremor is one the cardinal symptoms of ParkinsonsAn abrupt change in PD symptoms may be caused by a problem other than PD. Treatment therefore may require a different approach then simply changing Parkinson’s medicines.

In general, Parkinson’s disease is a slowly changing condition, yet you may find that your symptoms change dramatically overnight. If your movement, thinking or cognitive function change dramatically and quickly it may be due to something other than a change in your Parkinson’s disease. The following information helps you and your health care provider find other causes for your recent change:

• A recent addition of Parkinson’s medicine or dose increase can cause confusion.
• Fall with head injury can worsen neurological function.
• Other medicines such as some medicines for Parkinson’s, sleep, emotions, bladder control, pain or muscle spasm can cause confusion.
• Stress. This can include may types of stress- emotional stress, physical stress (including physical pain), medical stress (such as a recent operation and recovery) and even lack of sleep.
• Medical problem. The added stress of another medical condition can significantly worsen Parkinson’s symptoms. Examples include:

  • Bladder infection
  • Dehydration
  • Heart or breathing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pneumonia
  • Other infection

These problems can be treatable and symptom change reversible. Talk to your provider to determine if more testing is needed if you have experienced a rapid change in symptoms.


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Filed under Caregiving, Parkinson's Medical therapy, Parkinsons Disease, Self-Care, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Progression

Stem cells-what are they and how are they made?

stemcellsStem cells are immature cells in the body that have the potential to turn into many different cell types. Cells like this are important to the growth and development of a fetus. They also help the body repair and rejuvenate cells that are damaged. Stem cells come from different sources.

  • Embryonic and Fetal. Cells from embryos just a few days old and fetal tissue are the most immature stem cells and are pluripotent or have the ability to grow into any cell type in our body. Ethical and political tensions have limited the use and research with these types of cells, causing researchers to look for other sources.
  • Adult stem cells  are an alternative to embryonic cells. These cells are found in very  small quantity in certain tissues. In 2007 scientists made a major breakthrough when they found ways to induce or reprogram these cells to turn into other cells. These cells are multipotent as they can only turn into certain types of cells and are more limited in their ability to proliferate.
  • Umbilical cord stem cells are derived from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. No blood or tissue is taken from the baby so it has no impact on the pregnancy, delivery or safety of the infant. Some people are donating cord blood from related children at birth for private storage or public storage bank donation. It must be stressed that this is not a current treatment for Parkinson’s disease. See the National Marrow Donor Program for more information

What problems stand in the way?

  • Ethical arguments continue to cloud stem cell research despite the tremendous promise and potential effect on human suffering.
  • Stem cells especially more immature pluripotent cells divide easily and scientist need to understand how to turn this growth off. This is like designing a care with a gas pedal and no      break. Uncontrolled growth could cause unwanted tumor growth.
  • Stem cells could potentially be rejected by the body’s immune system so immune suppressant treatment may be needed to protect some cell lines in the body.
  • More mature adult stem cells can contain genetic abnormalities that occur naturally with aging and exposure to toxins or even sunlight.

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Filed under Parkinson's Research

Acting out your dreams- a sleep problem in Parkinson’s disease

sleepREM sleep disorder is a condition described as active, vivid and sometimes violent dreaming. Bed-partners  describe restless dreaming that can include talking, screaming, punching and even getting out of bed to physically’ act out a dream.’ This condition occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep when dreaming happens.  During REM sleep our bodies lose muscle tone preventing movement while dreaming. During REM sleep disorder, body muscle tone or ability to move is maintained. This, coupled with active dreaming, can lead to sleepless nights and harm to the person or their bed partner.

REMSD can be present as an isolated condition or a condition associated with disease such as Parkinson’s or Lewy body disease. In fact, REMSD can predate movement problems of Parkinson’s disease and is being studied as a risk factor for developing the disease.

The active and vivid dreaming of REMSD is different from hallucinations although an individual can have both problems together. This problem should be evaluated to prevent physical harm and to improve sleep. The following tips can be helpful:

  • First, inform your healthcare provider about this problem
  • Review your use of bedtime medicines such as Benadryl and antidepressants that can influence REM sleep.
  • Review timing and type of Parkinson’s medicines as medicines that increase confusion and hallucinations may also increase your risk of this problem.
  • Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
  • Make your time before bed a relaxing time. Avoid watching violent movies, stressful tasks or the evening news. Relax and unwind instead with gentle stretching and music.
  • Remove furniture and clutter from the room that would be a trip hazard in the event you ‘act out your dreams.’
  • Use you sleep mask or oxygen as prescribed if you have sleep apnea.
  • When needed medical treatment can help. Melatonin is sometimes helpful as is a prescription medicine called clonazepam. Clonazepam is similar to Valium so does have additional risks of sedation, confused imbalance.
  • Talk to your doctor is you are experiencing thinking or cognitive problems as these problems can be associated with REMSD.

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Are there recommendations for the best type of mattress for Parkinson’s?

New comments on best mattress and sleep for Parkinson’s


sleepPreference for bedding and type of mattress differs from one person to the next. An old mattress can be uncomfortable, lose its support and contribute to back pain or sleeping problems. However, certain Parkinson’s related problems will influence what type is best for you.  The following considerations can help you chose your mattress/bedding

  • Avoid high bed frames/mattress sets as these may be harder to get in and out of bed
  • A firmer mattress will make it easier to turn in bed. ‘Memory foam’ that molds to your body can make it harder to roll over and turn in bed.
  • An adjustable bed that allows the head of bed to be elevated can help with getting out of bed, finding a comfortable position
  • An adjustable bed that allows the foot of bed to be elevated can reduce leg swelling by elevating your feet
  • Try silk or sateen sheets or bed-clothes to help…

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