Q: A friend of mine recently retired from teaching. She used to be on her feet all day, but now shes slowed down and gained weight. The other day I noticed that her hands and shoulders were shaking as she was working in the kitchen. Could she be developing Parkinsons?
KATIE M., Muncie, Ind.
A. If someone shows signs of Parkinsons disease trouble with balance, tremors or shaking in lips, hand, arms and/or legs its important that he or she see a specialist and get a diagnosis ASAP. Heres why:
Reason No. 1. It could be something else. Sometimes medications, either by themselves or in combination, can produce symptoms similar to Parkinsons, which develops when your brain stops producing enough dopamine. If thats the problem, adjustments to medications may be necessary or even urgent. And theres a condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus that can mimic Parkinsons, a stroke or Alzheimers. Its reversible with surgical intervention.
Reason No. 2. Early diagnosis of Parkinsons gives you the best chance of finding effective treatment (using medications and short bouts of intense physical activity/therapy) that slows progression and improves day-to-day living. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at 31; hes now 52. During the past 19 years, hes started his own foundation (michaeljfox.org) to raise awareness of Parkinsons, and done more writing (three books) and acting (a new series) than most artists do in a lifetime. Hes living proof of the importance of early diagnosis and aggressive treatment.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.