What is Parkinson's?

20 January 2013

Interview with 

Dr James Rowe, Cambridge University

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Kick-starting the programme, I went in search of answers about Parkinson's disease.  First up, I wanted to get some idea of how many people it affects and how.

James -   Yes, hello.  I'm James Rowe.  I'm a Consultant Neurologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital and I work with the Cambridge University on some of the research studies in Parkinson's disease and related disorders.  

Well, Parkinson's is diverse and challenging.  It's not just because it affects up to 100,000 people in the UK, but because of the range of problems it can cause.  Many people will be familiar with the idea that it causes a tremor and slowness and stiffness, but not everyone will be aware it causes many other problems - what we call non-motor symptoms.  These include sleep problems, affecting mood - of anxiety and depression, pain even, and many other problems.  Even constipation is remarkably common too so, a wide range of symptoms.  

Many people, even quite early than others have difficulty PET scan

Hannah -   So, this highly prevalent disorder, most famously now affecting Michael J. Fox is known to have a biological cause, this dying off of the dopamine nerve cells.  We can treat it by giving patients L-Dopa or similar to replace some of the lacking chemical messenger dopamine and alleviating some of the symptoms.  But in the main, this only helps mask the symptoms for short amount of time.  Researchers are hoping to improve available treatments by coming up with clever new techniques to gain a much better understanding of the disorder.  

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