How PET-CT Scans help Diagnosing, Staging & Treatment for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a disease that affects 1 million people and estimated reports claim that as many as 50,000 to 60,000 new cases are diagnosed per year. The disease has gained more notoriety and support since celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali have revealed their conditions to the public. Thanks in part to their courageous choice to live in the spotlight with their disease, there more hope for finding a cure and counseling those diagnosed each year.

Neurodegenerative diseases are both emotionally and physically taxing. Whether it is Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or Huntington’s, these kind of diseases can be hereditary and can present in different ways. For some there is a type of foreknowledge if a parent or family member had the same disease but for many, these kind of diseases come as a shock. After the initial diagnosis, most often people want to know how advanced their disease is. There are several tests that doctors will perform to determine a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

To begin, questions are posed to the patient in regards to their daily life and movements. Has there been increased difficulty performing any of these tasks? Pain performing these tasks? Forgetfulness or lethargy where there was once more energy? After that, the doctor will perform a physical test looking to see the presence of tremors, face slanting, stiffness in the neck and limbs, and balance irregularities. Other tests to test motor functionality are done to see how a patient moves and the time it takes them to perform certain tasks to see if there is a slowing or difficulty.

One method of diagnosis that has been particularly important in studying these diseases and their symptoms is medical imaging. After these preliminary tests are conclusive for Parkinson’s, doctors may prescribe a PET-CT scan to patient. PET scans or positron emission tomography, is a way of imaging the brain that makes deciphering between diseased and healthy tissue the easiest.

Like a traditional CT scan, doctors administer a radioactive drug into the bloodstream that reacts when coming into contact with diseased tissue. The brain is an organ, made up of tissue and billions of nerve cells. Diseases like Parkinson’s cause degeneration in dopamine neurons located in the midbrain. By injecting the radioactive drug 18-fluorodopa into the bloodstream, the PET machine measures the presence of these neurons as highlighted by the drug. It may be worrying to see the word “radioactive” but the drug is an extremely low dose and the procedure only takes 30-45 minutes at most. It is a non-invasive and helps doctors to determine progression of diseases and recommend further treatment.

If you have more questions about Parkinson’s and PET-CT scans, feel free to contact Doctors Imaging office in Metairie at 504-883-8111 or by filling out this online form.

How Does Stress Damage the Body and Mind?

How many times a day do you think you hear the word “stress”? Probably more than you would like to admit, but it is a fact of life that everyone has times when they’re “stressed out.” While life will never ease the presence of stressful situations, the responses individuals have to stress can vary greatly. The original form of stress in your caveman ancestors was dangerous predators and threats from other groups. Humans became hardwired with a “flight or fight” response to stress because of these conditions. The sweaty palms, the racing heart, the hyper focused mindset, these symptoms are all responses to stress and the desire to either stay and fight the stressor or flee to save your life.

But what is stress exactly? Most would say it is personal relationships, your demanding job, or the pressures of daily life. While these might be your stressors, the body recognizes stress as the release of certain hormones in preparation for a difficult situation. Everyone presents stress in different ways: some lose sleep, some sleep too much, concentration difficulty, appetite loss or increase, lack of energy, but regardless of how you show your stress, what stress does to the brain and body is the troubling consequence.

Your body does not distinguish from physical or psychological stress. When the brain feels that you are in danger, it releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. In your caveman ancestors, these hormones would allow you to go longer without eating, using the restroom, sleeping, and help you not to feel pain if you needed to focus on outrunning a predator or trying to make a big kill. Your body still releases these hormones, except today it does it when you find out that you have lost your job, a family member has passed or your home is threatened by natural disaster.

While everyone has stress in their lives, long-term stress can be damaging to your health and longevity. Stress raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the aging process and inhibits fertility. When you are feeling stressed, your brain is flooding your body with cortisol and adrenaline in the hopes of helping your reaction. The problem with long-term stress is that the stress hormones, in particular cortisol, damages the body in a number of ways. Cortisol destroys healthy bone and muscle, impairs your ability to properly heal, slows digestion and metabolism, reduces energy levels, and can disrupt mental functionality.

Finding positive ways of coping and eliminating stress in your life is crucial to maintaining your health and increasing your quality of life. Studies have shown that long-term stress can even grow the proteins contributed to Alzheimer’s and causes disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and premature menopause. While you may not be able to rid yourself of your biggest stressor, you can control your reactions and benefit your health. Try 30 minutes of daily meditation, exercise, counseling, or medication if you need extra help in finding the right channels to cope with your stress.

If you’re stressed out about your health, preventative medical care can be exactly what you’re looking for. Speak with your doctor or call Doctors Imaging at 504-883-8111, and we can discuss what will work best for you.