An overview of Parkinson's

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) -- Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. live with Parkinson's Disease. The progressive disease stems from a lack of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate movements and emotions. Scientists believe it's caused by malformed proteins deep in the brain. Symptoms include tremors, poor posture, sleep problems, slowed cognitive processing, and paresthesia, the "pins and needles" feeling, as one patient, Sally Hupy Closser, described:

Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. live with Parkinson's Disease.

"Tingling in my arms and legs that's like electrical currents going through them. Very unpleasant. "

Parkinson's itself is not fatal, but complications can be, and the symptoms can affect quality of life.

"I had to stop biking because of Parkinson's," Closser said. "I didn't have enough ability to be stable. I really miss downhill skiing and cross country skiing, which i did avidly before my Parkinson's got so bad that I don't have enough coordination."

Medications that replace dopamine in the brain can slow the onset of symptoms. But there's no cure.

"You'll still have breakthrough symptoms despite the medication, but it can make people feel significantly better," said Alisha Wasilewski, Physician Assistant in neurology at UP Health System - Marquette. "People are able to walk more easily, play a musical instrument. Things most of us take for granted, they get to do again."

Scientists continue to develop new treatments, including gene therapy and deep brain stimulation.

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