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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Okay, Seriously...What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is caused by the death of little neurons in an area of your brain called the substantia nigra (black substance), which is somewhere above the spinal cord. These little gray cells, as Hercule Poirot would call them, make a chemical called dopamine.

Dopamine is the stuff that helps your brain send messages to movement related parts of your body. As these neurons die off, less dopamine is produced and the messages get garbled. These garbled messages cause a myriad of symptoms, ranging from twitching pinkie fingers to becoming stiff and rigid like a mummy. Symptoms can change from hour to hour and day to day, but progressively becoming worse as more neurons go to gray cell heaven.

Each and every Parky (nickname for people with Parkinson's) can have different symptoms. Most start with just symptoms on one side of their bodies. Mine was my right hand, bad for a right handed person. If I had been a lefty, I might not have even noticed for awhile. Most notice a shaking or tremor as the first sign, others never get tremors and just feel like their limbs got filled with concrete when they weren't looking, others have dexterity problems. My first symptom was the inability to double click my computer mouse with my right index finger, even though I had done it the day before with no problems. These discrepancies can make diagnosis very difficult.  

There is no test for Parkinson's. Rule out everything else and then make an educated guess.  In my case, it took eight years before someone guessed right.  Another YOPD (Young person with Parkinson's) I met online, got the right guess the day after she noticed something amiss. The average for us Youngsters seems to be a couple of years. The Doctors are looking for other things, not an "old persons" disease and sometimes tell us that it's all in our head. That part they are actually right about. It is all in our head, it's just not imagined.

Thank you for reading this story, I hope you enjoyed it. This is just one of a hundred stories in my book, Parkinson's Humor - Funny Stories about My Life with Parkinson's Disease. Please consider purchasing a copy from or your favorite online book seller. Thank you and have a Happy Parky Day!


  1. Bev, I absolutely love what you write. You are truly talented. Linda G

  2. You are such a blessing, so glad I have found you and your site, thank you, from my heart.

  3. Here is an accurate but simple way to explain PD. If you need to share with folks that don't understand. Cheryl

  4. Thanks for making this easy to understand esp when you have kids and young adult that want to read and help. Hugs lady great job!!

  5. Yes, you write it so plainly and so clearly - diagnosis often takes a long time because the general GP has no idea as to what is goin' on. It took my GP close on 6 yrs all up and kept tellin' me and the wife it was Graves Disease because it was discovered that after many blood tests I did in fact have graves. It wasn't until another 3 yrs later and when my wife asked the question do you think he could have or is gettin' Parkinsons was a real effort made in that direction.

  6. I was "lucky" I diagnosed myself and the Neuro confirmed it. Somedays I hate being right ;)
    Thanks for a humorous look at Parkinson's