YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – According to the Cleveland Clinic Parkinson’s Disease is the fastest growing neurodegenerative disease in America.
By around the age of 65 about 2% of people have it and that goes up to 5% by age 70 and it goes up from there.
“It’s frustrating and sometimes it’s embarrassing,” said Ron Moore Jr., who is living with Parkinson’s.
Imagine you’re taking a walk or in line at the grocery store and suddenly you can’t move.
“And I looked back behind me and explained to the people behind me and said, ‘I have Parkinson’s disease and my body is frozen. Until it thaws out, I’m here,” said Moore.
Ron’s story is one of many that people with Parkinson’s Disease experience; they’re walking and essentially their legs suddenly stop working. This can be caused by a change in flooring, making a quick turn, or even a narrow doorway.
“Some patients it causes them to fall. Some stand in place for awhile until they can do something to break the freeze,” said Moore.
“It could take half a second or one second or for some people unfortunately it could take five or 10 seconds or even longer,” said Dr. James Liao, a lead researcher from the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Liao is the lead researcher on a project to help people with Parkinson’s break free of their freeze and Ron is a participant in that project.
“The premise of our current study is to use these augmented reality goggles or augmented reality glasses that are coming out. We’re trying to figure out if these can be used to present visual cues in a way that improves gait freezing,” said Dr. Liao.
The glasses simulate an obstacle course that could trigger freezing. In the future when patients have the glasses the obstacles would be gone and all that would be there are visual cues to help break their freeze.
“When I had the goggles on I realized how powerful of a tool these will be for patients,” said Moore.
Researchers are about halfway through the year-long study. While it doesn’t provide a cure for Parkinson’s, it does provide a treatment.
Doctor Liao says there are additional studies going on, including some on trying to figure out what causes freezing to happen.