Harvard Women’s Health Watch
Published: June, 2006
There’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but new treatments can ease the symptoms and prolong independence.
“You’ll be fine for years. Go out and do your job.”
That’s how Janet Reno, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at age 57, recalls her neurologist’s advice. She took it to heart, not only returning to her demanding job as U.S. Attorney General but also taking up kayaking.
Reno and about a million others in the United States and Canada are living with PD, a progressive disorder caused by a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, most noticeably in an area of the brain that controls movement. For now, there’s no cure, but advances in treatment have made it easier for Reno and others to remain active for many years. Physicians are also increasingly recognizing that dopamine-producing nerve cells can be disturbed in brain areas other than those involved in motor control — and even outside the brain — which helps explain a host of mysterious symptoms that can accompany the disorder (see “More than a movement disorder”).