Dr. Cecil Rytwinski talks about Parkinson’s disease

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by Susan Hanna

What are its symptoms?

“The most common symptoms include tremor while at rest, problems initiating movement and muscle rigidity,” said Dr. Rytwinski. “These symptoms can lead to loss of mobility and an increased risk of falling. As the disease progresses, other symptoms can include apathy, anxiety, dementia and hallucinations.” Those with Parkinson’s may also experience fatigue, difficulty with speech or swallowing, stooped posture, sleep disturbances and problems writing by hand.

Who is at risk?

“Parkinson’s is age-related, with typical onset around age 70,” said Dr. Rytwinski. “There is also a genetic predisposition; if you have a close relative with the disease your risk of developing it is two times higher.” Other possible contributing factors include repeated blows to the head, exposure to toxins such as herbicides and fungicides, and infections.

How is it treated?

“The most common treatment is the oral medication L-dopa, which converts to dopamine in the brain and takes the place of naturally produced dopamine,” said Dr. Rytwinski. “Physical activity can also help.”

Is Parkinson’s fatal?

“Parkinson’s can be mild, moderate or severe,” explains Dr. Rytwinski. “Severe cases can lead to death.”

How is it diagnosed?

“Usually a patient notices difficulty with movement, such as doing up buttons or problems changing direction,” says Dr. Rytwinski. “If your family physician suspects Parkinson’s you will be referred to a neurologist, who will assess you and make a diagnosis.”