Tech graduate delivers care for Parkinson’s disease patients in north Louisiana

Jan 10, 2020 | Alumni, Applied and Natural Sciences, Faculty/Staff, General News, Tech Family

Neurology professor and physician Dr. Karl Kieburtz will deliver the next seminar in the New Frontiers in Biomedical Research series on Jan. 13. In advance of and following this seminar, Louisiana Tech University will share a series of stories designed to help readers know more about diseases of the central nervous system and how Louisiana Tech students and faculty are working to advance care for them.

Dr. Ben Grigsby, a 1977 Louisiana Tech graduate, spends his days as a family medicine doctor in Ruston. He sees patients for a variety of ailments as well as for routine checkups, and he has seen a number of individuals in the area who are eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

“Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative and progressive nervous system disease that affects the cells in the brain that produce a brain chemical called dopamine,” Grigsby said. “Symptoms of PD may include resting tremor, muscle rigidity of the extremities, trunk and neck, slowness in movement, unsteady balance with difficulty arising from a sitting position, shuffling gait, loss of postural reflexes and lack of facial expression or emotion.”

It is estimated that 1.2 million people in the United States will be living with Parkinson’s disease by 2030, with about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year (Statistics on Parkinson’s). There are an estimated 10 million cases worldwide. Grigsby said Parkinson’s can be difficult to diagnose, and treatment is individualized for each patient.

“While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease there are treatment options that include medication and in some cases surgery,” he said. “Other forms of therapy for Parkinson’s disease include education, exercise, nutrition, caregiver support and respite care. New and exciting therapy programs are now available including Rock Steady Boxing which improves quality of life through a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum and therapeutic dance which helps reduce motor symptoms, improves muscle strength, tone and endurance and improves gait disturbances.”

Louisiana Tech University’s Parkinson Resource Center helps connect PD patients and their caregivers to programs and resources to help.

“Although we do not have a cure for Parkinson’s, there are treatment options and it is possible to have a good quality of life while living with PD,” said Dr. Tara Haskins, PRC board member and Professor of Nursing at Tech. “Through collaboration of faculty, students, and facility resources of Louisiana Tech University, the PRC connects those with PD and their care partners to resources that support and improve quality of life. Our mission is to promote a healthy Parkinson’s community by connecting people, programs, ideas, and resources.”

Doctors cannot say that the incidence of PD is increasing, Grigsby added, but the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age.

“Only 4 percent of cases occur before a patient reaches age 50,” Grigsby said. “Parkinson’s disease occurs 1.5 times more frequently in men than women.”

Area residents will have the opportunity to learn more about diseases of the central nervous system at the Jan. 13 New Frontiers lecture

For more information on the PRC and resources available to the community visit the program’s website.