East Texans may live in "Parkinson's Belt"

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - (KTRE) - Dr. George Plotkin, director of East Texas Medical Center Movement Disorder Center in Tyler, closely watches the possible causes of Parkinson's. The neurologist is in a good location to test his theories.

"I've always referred to say down by Beaumont and all the way up through the Midwest and up into Iowa, as a Parkinson's belt, where people are either drilling for things or they're spraying things in order to grow crops," said Plotkin. Plotkin said Parkinson's didn't show itself until after coal and oil exploration and the use of pesticides.

And what if you've handled any of these toxins on a regular basis?

"You have a 300% increase in your chances of developing Parkinson's," said Plotkin.

The message to avoid dangerous toxins could keep you from hearing what every Parkinson's patient is told. There is no cure for Parkinson's.

"The end of Parkinson's is death and it's along road in between," is how Mary Taylor of Lufkin describes it. She's been living with the progressive disease for 20 years.

Taylor's hope for normalcy came from Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery. A neurostimulator, connected by an extension to a lead that's surgically placed in a precise point of the brain tricks the brain. DBS helps control stiffness and tremors. Take it away and the symptoms come back.

Jack Heard of Nacogdoches calls the surgery a blessing for his wife of 55 years, Peggy. "She was shaking and her legs and her feet, her whole thing. Her chin, her head, so this has really been a blessing, the deep brain stimulation surgery," said Heard with tears in his eyes.

Plotkin says the implant is a jumping point to other treatments still under research.

"Next step would be growing selected cells that when you put them back into the brain they actually set up shop and reproduce the original circuitry," explained Plotkin. "Once the cells start working, the DBS is removed."

The problem is it takes five years for the cells to grow. This may be time some patients might not have.

Individuals and their caregivers learn to live with Parkinson's. The Nacogdoches Parkinson's support group helps provide the information to help regain a normal life. For more information, contact their Nacogdoches office at 936-462-7511.

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