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The first patient to receive the cutting-edge new treatment describes it as “amazing.” But will it really mean a paradigm shift in treatment?

* Feature Image uses photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

For the first time ever, there may be hope for those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

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The disease, caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain, results in tremors and muscular rigidity, and affect the patient’s ability to move quickly and precisely. It’s a life-long diagnosis with no cure. Until now.

Why a New Parkinson’s Treatment Changes How Patients Live with the Disease

Women holding hands in hospital bed
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Tony Howell wasn’t just the first patient to receive a new treatment as part of a medical trial. At Southmead Hospital in Bristol, he was the first person in the world to receive a tiny implant to reverse the affects of Parkinson’s.

“You can’t understand how frustrating [Parkinson’s] is until it happens to you,” Howell said. “Just doing your shoelaces up is a major operation… it affects your everyday life no end.”

Tony Howell, Parkinson’ Patient

The small deep brain stimulation (DBS) device targets malfunctioning areas of the brain and delivers electrical impulses directly to them. The surgery involves implanting a large battery — similar to the size of a pacemaker — into the chest or stomach, which is connected to wires that run under the skin to the brain.

The operation originally took about six hours, but now it takes only half that. The trial is ongoing, set to conclude next year, but it has already changed the lives of Howell and those close to him.

The New Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Has Shown Incredible Results

Doctors chat in an operating theater
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Howell described the changes caused by the DBS as “amazing.” Before the operation, he tried going on a walk on Boxing Day and could not get past 200 yards from his car.

“Then after the operation, which was 12 months later, I went on Boxing Day again and we went for 2.5 miles,” he told the BBC. “It was amazing.”

Howell

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Howell is even able to play golf again after the implant, but most importantly, he is able to perform everyday tasks again with greater ease. He said he is able to “do things a lot quicker than I could before,” which has helped him to “no end.”

The Future for Parkinson’s Disease Patients May Be a Little Brighter

Michael J. Fox looking intense wearing a blue sweater
The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Ten Million People Suffer from Parkinson’s WorldWide, and has affected high profile names like Muhammad Ali and Neil Diamond.

Most people develop symptoms when they are over 50 years old, but about 1 in 20 experience them when they are under 40. Michael J. Fox, for instance, developed early-onset symptoms that began affecting him at age 29.

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Parkinson’s not only impacts the lives of those who have it, but their loved ones, as well. There may be some relief now, though, if treatments like this continue to show promise; not to mention the hope of one day finding a cure.

Research into the condition and treatment will continue, but these promising results can help us see a better tomorrow.

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