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David Kreitzman, MD, Director, Parkinson’s Disease Specialty Care Center at Catholic Health's St. Charles Hospital (Port Jefferson, NY) and Director, Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center of Long Island (Commack, NY) answers commonly asked questions about Parkinson’s Disease and shares the extensive services you can find at Catholic Health.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a slowly progressive neurologic disorder that can be managed with multiple pathways of treatment that can suppress symptoms and help to improve a patient’s ability to live each day to the fullest. There are also extensive supportive services available to aid in the management of this condition.

Parkinson’s Disease is a slowly progressive disorder of the nervous system that leads to neuronal loss in the central nervous system. In one area of the brain, cells do not produce enough dopamine. This decrease in dopamine levels causes motor symptoms such as stiffness, slowness, and tremor—commonly referred to as Parkinsonism—to gradually appear. This typically presents as one side of the body being more affected than the other at onset.

It is estimated that more than one million people have Parkinson’s Disease in the United States. Most patients develop symptoms between the ages of 55 - 60; however, it is also estimated that approximately 10-20% of Parkinson’s Disease patients are diagnosed under the age of 50.

 

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Many patients experience symptoms that slowly progress over time. The most common Parkinson’s Disease symptoms include:

  • Bradykinesia (slowness)
  • Rigidity (Stiffness)
  • Tremor while at rest
  • Difficulty with dressing, cutting food and other everyday activities
  • Falls/unsteady on feet
  • Masking of the face (showing less expression)
  • Slowed walking

Parkinson’s Disease is slowly progressive, which means symptoms can continue to worsen. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your physician.

If there is reason to believe you may have Parkinson’s Disease, it is likely a more formal evaluation will be needed with a neurologist or movement disorder specialist for further evaluation and review of treatment options. A movement disorder specialist is a neurologist with additional training and knowledge on treating Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders.

 

What are the treatment options for Parkinson’s Disease?

Medications and non-medicinal treatments combined can help manage Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, such as decreasing stiffness, improving mobility and mood, and assisting with sleep issues. There are also surgical options and ongoing clinical trials as well.

Parkinson’s Disease manifests itself differently in each patient. Your neurologist will work with you to create a customized treatment plan. Management of Parkinson’s Disease is a partnership between patients, physicians, caregivers, and extended services that are built on the following core components:

  • Eating well
  • Staying hydrated
  • Exercising
  • Socializing
  • Getting good, restful sleep each night

 

Where can I find extensive supportive services?

Mental health is a crucial component of Parkinson’s Disease care. The initial diagnosis can be overwhelming for patients, families and caregivers.

Supportive services are critically important for Parkinson’s Disease patients and include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology. Reducing rigidity and increasing strength, balance and flexibility can help you stay active and engaged in your daily activities.

People with Parkinson’s Disease often have speech and voice problems, including low pitch, breathing concerns and swallowing difficulties. Studies show that exercising your vocal cords can help reduce some of these issues, which is why speech support is so essential for Parkinson’s Disease patients.

The Parkinson’s Disease Specialty Care Center at St. Charles Hospital (Port Jefferson, NY) offers specialized care for adults diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. We also offer support to patients at our American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA) Information and Referral Centers in partnership with St. Charles Hospital and St. Catherine of Siena Hospital located at Catholic Health Ambulatory Care in Commack with extended services to additional Suffolk County locations. These support groups provide educational and emotional support to people with Parkinson’s Disease and their families.

 

What support groups do you offer?

In addition to a general Parkinson’s Disease support group, our specialty support groups and programs include:

  • Care partner support groups: designed specifically for care partners of people with Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) support groups: for people with Parkinson’s Disease who have had deep brain surgery and those with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners who want to learn more about it.
  • Loud & Lyrical vocal group run by a neurologic music therapist: Therapeutic chorus for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners too.
  • Support group educational series for those diagnosed five years ago or less: Created to help newly diagnosed people with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners learn more about the disease and available treatment options.
  • Young-onset support groups: Care partners are welcome to attend as well.
  • Virtual trivia game day: Fun and games for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their care-partners.

The APDA Information and Referral Center coordinators connect people with Parkinson's Disease and their families with information and referrals in the community, education, support programs, health and wellness programs and other events to facilitate a better quality of life to those with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease can be overwhelming. But we’re here to help. From initial consultation to diagnosis and customized treatment plans—we partner with you for the highest level of care.

To find a Catholic Health physician near you, please call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362).

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