4.2 C
Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Letter: Don’t ignore health changes. Get checked out

Dear editor:

Dr. William Brown’s column in the April 29 issue of The Lake Report, “Not as nimble as we age, falls are major danger,” caught my attention for reasons explained below. It was a reminder that everyone, especially men, should get checked out if health changes occur.

Over the last few years I have fallen or tripped. I attributed this to a lack of attention, concentration, focus or clumsiness such as tripping going up stairs and not lifting my feet enough, taking down a step ladder in the garage and tripping on my feet, or not lifting my leg high enough, thus catching the seat of my bicycle.

The latest episode occurred when I slipped on an ice-covered patio while hanging bird feeders. I’ve been fortunate not to have ever broken a bone except when I was hit by a car while cycling home years ago. I must add that my sense of balance is very poor. I played hockey up until my 40s but can no longer stand on skates.

I didn’t think much of all of this until my younger sister, a retired registered nurse, sent the family an email that she had been diagnosed by a neurologist as having the early signs of Parkinson’s. The diagnosis had been made by the same neurologist my older brother had seen previously. We are all in the seventh decade of our lives.

The email was sent to family members “so that you know.” It stated that it was very mild at this stage, just left sided tremors in the hand and foot intermittently.

She’s had them for two years, knew what was coming and that no treatment will change the progress of this neurological degenerative disease but that exercise can help slow its progress.

She says at this time no treatment is required to alleviate symptoms and nothing is bothersome yet. Any treatment is for symptom control.

My sister is also being investigated for myasthenia gravis, which my mother had around the age of 70 and that my older brother is receiving treatment for.

I wrote to her that I’ve had some tremors in my hands, which I can stop by tightly squeezing whatever I’m holding.

My sister replied that tremors with Parkinson’s are resting tremors and that for her they can be stopped by moving her hand. She suggested getting a referral from my family doctor to a neurologist, preferably one associated with movement disorders. Tremors are no longer considered benign, there is a cause and they need to be investigated she insisted.

My partner looked up some articles on recent studies in the “Journal of Neurology” for the treatment of Parkinson’s. We couldn’t see immediate treatment for this disease other than on-going exercises.

After seeing my family doctor and doing some basic tests like walking in a straight line, moving one foot ahead of the other and writing something badly (which I attributed to being on my computer) I got a referral to a Hamilton neurologist whom I will be seeing in the fall. I’ve already received a CT scan of my brain.

All this to say that symptoms often dismissed, especially by men, should be investigated. I am fortunate to have a sister and a partner who tend to be more attentive to these issues than I am.

I mentioned to my sister that my mother had deadly fear of falling. My sister said our mother was very cautious and proactive about taking all necessary precautions.

She had an electric chair that helped her stand up slowly. She had a bath tub chair that raised and lowered her in the tub and she used her walker to keep herself more active. She kept walking. To quote my sister ‘’Let’s not be foolish when it’s time to protect ourselves.’’

My sister now tells me she goes pole walking, which helps her a lot on uneven ground in parks, hills, etc. It’s considered a fitness thing and is used a lot more in Europe than here. It helps with balance, cardio, upper body fitness, using your arms swinging and propelling you forward.

Charlie, her dog, gets her and her husband walking every day. Some people say they couldn’t do the distances without poles. At the moment she has bursitis in her hip which limits her somewhat.

Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs — called bursae – that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. It occurs when bursae become inflamed. The most common locations are in the shoulder, elbow and hip.

Gilbert Comeault


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