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Botox helps relieve Parkinson's symptoms

January 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Botox helps millions of people erase wrinkles and frown lines, but now doctors are finding new ways to take advantage of the muscle-paralyzer. This well-known wrinkle remover can help relieve the pain and tremors that often come with the movement disorder Parkinson's disease.For five years, 61-year-old Doug Eshelman had to fight to stand, walk, or even sit. He wasn't in control -- Parkinson's disease was.

"Well, I tripped a lot," said Eshelman. "Because I dragged my right leg, I just subconsciously -- you just don't pick it up, so I dragged it, and I mean I could literally trip over a line on a basketball court."

Help came from something he never expected.

"Doctor walks in the room, said, 'I want to try Botox on you,' and we laughed. We both thought Botox was basically a cosmetic drug," said Eshelman.

At the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, patients with Parkinson's and other muscular disorders get multiple targeted injections of botulism toxin, guided by electromyography (EMG).

The neurotoxin in Botox can release the grip of muscle spasms, tremors and pain.

"The Botox, what it does is it goes into the nerve terminals and then makes those nerve terminals fire less, and by firing less the muscles or the limbs return to their original or more normal position," said Dr. Guillermo Moguel-Cobos, a neurologist at the center.

"He gave me nine shots in my leg and within a week, that inside muscle relaxed and my foot went back into place and I walked fine," said Eshelman. "Sometimes I cry when I think about it, like right now. My whole life is back."

An active man taking control of his Parkinson's disease one step at a time.

Botox is FDA-approved to treat Parkinson's patients. Injections are administered about every 90 days. It's not a cure, but doctors say by relieving some of the worst symptoms, Botox therapy can help patients avoid surgery.

BOTOX FOR PARKINSON'S

BOTOX: "Botox" is the brand name for a toxin produced by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. As the last part of that term suggests, the toxin can cause botulism - a condition that is known to lead to bad cases of food poisoning. It can also lead to paralysis in extreme cases, and this is a factor which scientists have been able to leverage. Finding that the toxin could weaken muscles, the FDA approved Botox's treatment of conditions such as belpharospasm (uncontrollable blinking) and strabismus (also known as "lazy eye") in the late 1980's. Since then, Botox has been implemented for cosmetic procedures such as wrinkles and frown lines. Botox works by preventing nerve signals from reaching muscles, thus eliminating muscle contractions. It is administered via injection in a very short procedure, and requires a period of three to seven days for the toxin to affect the specific area. This area will be affected for anywhere from four to six months, until muscle action is able to fully resurface.

TYPES OF BOTOX: The medical use of botulinum toxin has two classifications - Botox and Botox Cosmetic. The former designates strictly medical uses of the toxin and the latter refers to its implementation as a facial procedure. Typically, both are referred to as just Botox.

RISKS OF BOTOX: Botox procedures have a reputation of being very safe when performed by a trusted doctor. However, there are a variety of conditions that can occur after the procedure has been completed. Mild symptoms such as bruising, pain, redness, itchiness, nausea, headache and abnormal body sweat should be reported if they do not subside. Rarely the botulinum toxin can spread to other areas and cause botulism-like complications such as a weakness of the muscles in all parts of parts of the body, visual impairment, difficulty with speaking, breathing and swallowing, and bladder control loss

PARKINSON'S DISEASE: Parkinson's disease (PD) refers to a collection of motor system disorders which result from a decrease in the brain cells that produce dopamine. PD victims suffer from bodily tremors, facial and limb trembling, uncontrollable rigidity in posture, limb and lower-body stiffness, delayed movement, as well as poor balance and coordination. Often seen in individuals over the age of 50, PD can advance gradually or quickly. There is currently no way to screen for or diagnose PD, so diagnosis is reliant upon past medical information and a neurological examination. Lab tests and brain scans can be requested to rule out the possibility of other diseases

TREATMENT: Currently, no cure for PD exists, but there are a variety of treatments to help patients with the symptoms. A common prescription is a combination of levodopa and carbidopa, which helps the nerve cells to restore the brain's amount of dopamine. This treatment is unable to relieve all of a patient's symptoms, so other treatments such as anticholinergics are also prescribed to control bodily tremors and rigidity. There are also drugs like bromocriptine, which mimic the functions of dopamine in order to trick the necessary neurons to respond as they would to dopamine.


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