Parkinson's Disease

Last night’s Season Two premiere of Greenleaf, the breakout soap opera from OWN, confirmed our suspicions that we can expect more of the rollercoaster-like twists and turns we came to love during its first season. One of the plots introduced in last season’s finale was the Bishop’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.  While it remains to be seen how this chronic illness will ultimately impact the storylines on the show, it serves as a great opportunity to bring awareness to this disease and the many families across this nation that are affected by it.

Brought to the spotlight after the late, great Muhammad Ali went public with his battle, Parkinson’s Disease remains a condition many don’t know much about. It is a degenerative disorder affecting the nervous system and is classically known by its shaking tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement.

Classified as a progressive disease, those with Parkinson’s often experience a decline in motor functioning over time. While most may deem tasks such as buttoning a shirt, rising from a chair, writing or swallowing as simple, they actually require a fair amount of coordination to perform. As a result, those with Parkinson’s disease will often experience difficulty performing these and many other motor skills over time. Though everyone’s course is different. Some will have a gradual worsening of symptoms with minimal limitations, while others may have a more aggressive loss of activity.

While there is no cure, treatments can help those with the disease manage the symptoms.  Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available based on age, symptoms and severity of Parkinson’s Disease. However, the medications and therapies available are prone to producing side effects. This will sometimes lead to decreased compliance with therapy until the symptoms of the disease are severe.



Mentioned less often are the cognitive and behavioral effects of the disease. Those living with Parkinson’s disease can face depression and anxiety due to the chemical changes that occur in the brain. They may also experience the memory loss and judgement impairment that is commonly seen with dementia. Hallucinations, agitation and confusion may also develop in advanced stages of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease has traditionally been viewed as a disease of the elderly, as it doesn’t typically manifest in young people under the age of 40. However, in certain cases or where the disease is thought to be related to brain trauma, it may develop much earlier.

While Parkinson’s can be a debilitating chronic disease, it is possible to live a long life. In fact, those living with the disease don’t succumb to it directly.  Typically, the disease progression will ultimately end in complications like pneumonia, choking, or falls due to poor coordination and balance.

Amidst all of the allegations and the threat of jail time, Bishop Greenleaf is sure to have us wondering how his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease will affect him this season. But let’s not forget how it’s affecting millions of families worldwide. Research is ongoing as a search for a cure continues. If you need more information on Parkinson’s Disease or on how you can help, visit The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Health Media Group, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at www.urbanhousecall.com, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @urbanhousecall



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