Parkinson’s Disease Has a New High-Profile Face

Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Janet Reno all have Parkinson’s disease.  The latest celebrity to announce she has Parkinson’s disease is Linda Ronstadt.  Parkinson’s does not only affect celebrities, but many others in our society.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that affects an individual’s motor controls.  “Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person’s movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.”

Parkinson’s is caused by a drop in the chemical dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine “transmits signals within the brain to produce smooth movement of muscles.  In Parkinson’s patients, 80 percent or more of these dopamine-producing cells are damaged, dead, or otherwise degenerated.”  Parkinson’s can run in families, but an individual can develop Parkinson’s through environmental factors.

Lack of dopamine leads to a variety of symptoms:

  • tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face

  • rigidity, or stiffness of limbs and trunk

  • bradykinesia, or slowness of movement

  • postural instability or impaired balance and coordination.

Information from

Getting a Diagnosis

Parkinson’s disease is not diagnosed by a single test.  Doctors use a number of approaches to arrive at a diagnosis.  A doctor will take a full medical history and ask about possible symptoms.  A doctor can order genetic testing to see if an individual has certain gene mutations that are commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease.  Neuroimaging is used to determine the amount of dopamine producing cells an individual has.  Individuals with Parkinson’s tend to have impaired smelling capabilities, so a doctor may order olfactory system testing.  Doctors also use PET scans, CT scans, and MRIs to add to an individual’s medical assessment when making a Parkinson’s determination.

Treatment options

Parkinson’s is a chronic disease with no cure.  But symptoms are managed through a variety of treatments.  A common treatment is to use dopamine or dopamine-mimicking drugs to lessen symptoms.  Exercise is highly recommended to help Parkinson’s individuals maintain balance, mobility and doing daily living activities.  Studies have shown that exercise can help individuals manage symptoms and can possibly slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

If medication and other tactics, including exercise, are not working, there is the possibility of surgery.  “Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms – most commonly the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.”

Social Security Disability

Even with drugs and other treatments, Parkinson’s symptoms can get to the point where an individual cannot work.  The Social Security Administration looks for the following signs when making a determination of Parkinson’s disease: “Significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities, which, singly or in combination, result in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.”  The symptoms must be of an intensity and duration that an individual has great difficulty in getting around and performing every-day tasks.

If you have Parkinson’s and are unable to work, contact our experienced attorneys to assist you with the SSD process.

The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, PA. will provide a free, no obligation consultation at our South Florida offices located in Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties. If you are unable to travel, we can see you at your home, hospital, or other location which is convenient for you. Call us at (305) 653-5555 or contact us to schedule your free consultation today.