Over 200 people living with Parkinson's disease will gather in Taipei's Chungshan Hall on World Parkinson's Disease Day tomorrow, to listen to the needs of other patients and raise awareness of the degenerative disease.
Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurological disorders for which there is no cure. In Taiwan, about 100,000 people living with Parkinson's grapple with difficulties in walking, talking, writing, and swallowing. Every year, about 1,000 to 1,500 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's.
"Many patients, who are just about to reach the apex of life in their mid-50s, felt that being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease was a death sentence," said Chen Rou-hsian (陳柔賢), chief of movement disorders at the department of neurology at Chang Gang Memorial Hospital.
Inadequate knowledge about Parkinson's often make patients feel hopeless. Yet doctors said that proper medication could still help maintain a patient's quality of life.
"Although medication cannot stop the dopamine-producing cells in the brain from dying, a variety of medications provide significant relief from the symptoms," said Lu Ching-song (陸清松), the chief of neurology at Chang Gang Memorial Hospital.
For instance, a new therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS), provides electrical stimulation to the brain through surgically-implanted electrodes, and can dramatically reduce the dyskinesia of Parkinson's sufferers.
With drugs, surgical treatment and rehabilitation therapy, patients can still live as healthy people for 10 or 15 years after the disease's onset. Most of the patients will live an average of 15 to 20 years after the onset, according to Lu.
Chen advised patients not to cast the disease in a negative light.
"I ask them if you are sad because you have to eat every day. If you don't eat, you will die. But you are not disturbed by the fact that you have to eat," said Chen. "I ask them to take daily medication in the way as they take their meals."
The reason why dopamine decreases in the brains of people with Parkinson's is unknown. Neurologists also said that physical activities can decrease the rate at which a person with Parkinson's deteriorates. "At the early stage of Parkinson's, patients are encouraged to engage in exercise, such as swimming, hiking, or playing golf or basketball.
Older patients can still practice Tai Chi or Yoga," said Lu, who noted that exercise has helped one of his patients to live a good life even at the age of 72.
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