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What do we know about PD?

October 5, 2010

What Do We Know?

Just what do we really know about PD?  The short answer is “not much” but, like most short answers, is incomplete. We actually know a good deal. But these bits of data lack a coherent landscape.  They are the “dots” which we seek to connect. Consider the following gleaned from scientist and patient – the former from experiment and the latter from experience.

  1. PD is widely distributed geographically and, with rare exceptions, is not found in a pattern suggesting solely environmental origins. If a factory is belching out a carcinogen, we expect a cluster of cases downwind of the factory. Such horizontal clustering of PD has not been observed in homogeneous populations. While environmental toxins may influence the matter it is unlikely that they have a dominant role.
  2. In a similar manner, PD does not exhibit vertical clustering within the levels of a stratified society. The child playing in the gutter seems no more likely to develop PD than the one playing in the penthouse. While social status may influence the matter it is unlikely to be the dominant factor.
  3. PD does exhibit clustering among some occupational groups, however. Farmers and welders, for example.
  4. PD also is generally more common in industrialized countries than in non-industrialized countries.
  5. Family clusters are rare which casts doubt on solely genetic origins.
  6. Particular personality traits seem shared more than statistically likely.
  7. An exaggerated stress response is so common as to be almost universal in the later stages.
  8. The speed of degeneration and the nature of symptoms is highly variable among individuals.
  9. A dramatic worsening of symptoms is often associated with infections.
  10. A similar response to acute stressors is often incapacitating.
  11. Lifetime stress loads are remarkably high among younger PWP.
  12. Acute trauma often precedes diagnosis.
  13. Acute infection often precedes diagnosis.

These “points” are reasonably clear, but the lines connecting them are not. Some are, however. For example, the role of stress and our response to it stands out, even though Medicine hardly recognizes it. A similar presence  is highlighted for immune system involvement. It is the combination of these two factors – the  inflammatory immune response and the endocrine system’s stress response – that underpins PD. This combination wreaks havoc on the nervous system as CAUSES not EFFECTS.  This mental jump is essential if we are to understand Parkinson’s Disease.

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