Local Parkinson's community hopeful Robin Williams' diagnosis will help bring awareness to disease

Robin Williams in the PBS program 'Pioneers of Television', Photo Credit: PBS via MGN Online

Parkinson's Disease can be a scary diagnosis. Thursday, Robin Williams' wife announced the actor had been diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's shortly before his death.A local doctor and members of a support foundation for Parkinson's said they are hopeful the revelation will help bring awareness to the disease and help others.Susan Schneider's statement read in part: "Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles. Robin's sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.""It's not a disease you want to tackle by yourself. It's something which requires really a tag team approach," OU Medical neurologist Dr. Cherian Karunapuzha said.He said he has seen that community support helps patients achieve a better quality of life after diagnosis.One resource that can help is the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma."It is depressing for the patient and for the family. It's a struggle however what we see is that the families that connect to other Parkinson's families do find encouragement in each other," Bruce McIntyre, with the Foundation, said.The Foundation has served Oklahoma for about 10 years. It has set up support groups across the state and offers several programs that can help patients.Dr. Karunapuzha said it also helps patients to get treatment for the disease as early as possible. Though, he said, there is no treatment available to help slow or reverse the disease, treatment for symptoms at an earlier stage has proven to improve quality of life.Those symptoms most associated with Parkinson's, like the tremors, come later in the progression of the disease."It's a form of arthritis of your brain- think of it like that. And the big circuit which is hit in Parkinson's is almost like an on and off switch in your brain," he said.Dr. Karunapuzha said at the early stages of that deterioration, symptoms can be loss of smell, constipation, REM sleep disorder- where people act out their dreams, and mild depression.Though depression is a symptom, Dr. Karunapuzha said it was unlikely Parkinson's is what caused Williams' death.
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