General Parkinson's

A New Syndrome?

I had a 3-hour session with the dentist so I’m zonked. I nearly died — I’m not joking!

Both the dentist and her assistant have PTTS syndrome – that is a new syndrome that I have created, there are so many already, nobody will notice one extra 🙂 ! And this one is needed badly!

PTTS Defined

I have coined the term “Parkinson’s Thus They’re Stupid” so don’t pay any attention to what they say. Just pretend you are actually listening, nod your head often, and smile conspiratorially, and then interrupt before they a chance to make their main point and say “Don’t worry, I understand you completely!

(Don’t look so concerned, just look at her shaking and drooling, surely anyone can see she’s an imbecile, she clearly can’t knew anything!)

At The Dentist

Today was a complicated procedure which required both sides if the jaw to be frozen. So I thought it would be prudent to warn Joan – I know she is a great dentist, but just in case.

Mucus control system!

I am sure this is Dental Physiology 101, but as biomedical engineers, I explained to her, tend to look at the dynamic aspects of the body, for example that the body has a mucus control system designed to keep us alive!

The throat lining consists of special epithelial cells that line the throat and airways. They produce a sticky mucus (gross I know, but bear with me) whose very job it is to prevent nasty stuff from getting into our lungs ; it contains antibodies and enzymes that protect you from harmful organisms . When these nasties manage to get into the lungs, they fester and rot, the mucus turns really green and tacky, and that often results in pneumonia, the leading cause of death in pwp (people with Parkinson’s so it is serious business!  

Heidi, they don’t want to know all this now, let’s get on with the appointment, the freezing has kicked in, you are starting to mumble!

As I was explaining all this, I saw the nodding, the conspiratorial smile – I should have recognized the warning signs. But I tend to go on a bit (quite a bit), I did not drag it out as much as I did here for effect but still…

This sticky stuff traps dust, cookie crumbs, eyeliner, and even complete eyelashes when they fall out, pollen, wildfire smoke particulates, nicotine and fine paper ash and any such undesirable stuff. (Gross I know, but bear with me). These epithelial cells also have little hair-like things called cilia that move in a wave-like fashion to force the mucus with the trapped particulate matter up the throat. When there is too much mucus it may feel like it is overflowing. It is called a post-nasal drip.

Get To The Point, Heidi!

The mucus control system , as biomedical engineers call it, I think the doctors call it the mucus homeostasis system) is a brilliant design, but is compromised in several ways when one has Parkinson’s. The mucus produced is more viscous, i.e. sticky (this is controlled by the Autonomous Nervous System that is attacked early on by those little blighters, the prions*, this system also controls the thin layer of mucus on the eye so we complain constantly of dry eyes, and should normally keep the mouth moist but doesn’t, thank goodness for Hall’s!

*Note: we don’t know yet what causes the neurons to die off progressively in Parkinson’s Disease, we call it prions (a term first coined when mad cow disease (in humans it is more respectfully called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) was identified. Whatever it is, it seems to also cause some proteins to mis-fold (alpha-synuclein in the case of Parkinson’s). How the cells manufacture proteins based on the code contained in the DNA and the feedback loops controlling them is fascinating! It was thought at first that these misfolded proteins were toxic, causing the neighboring nerve cells to also mis-fold and die – a lot of research went into finding ways of removing the clumps of misfolded proteins. but it is more likely they are part of the cells protective system kicking in!

Back to the story, Heidi

At the top of the throat is a little area that senses when the mucus stuff arrives at the top. This triggers an automatic swallow reflex, which you are very glad to have when you are asleep and dreaming of pleasant things.

It becomes more sensitive with Parkinson’s, probably to compensate for the mucus being stickier and being more difficult to swallow. So you are decidedly less happy when your mouth is full of stuff, swabs, spreaders, dentist’s fingers, etc. and the assistant blows a jet of water directly onto the trigger area, triggering a swallow reflex at the wrong moment. I’ll spare  you the details – until later. It was brutal, all because of PTTS.

Too Funny!

I was in an in-person appointment with the movement disorder specialist. I had told her about the new syndrome I had defined and was about to tell her how we could prove it experimentally and a possible approach to counter it (this, in my opinion, would be a very relevant, appropriate research as it would affect our quality of life, when we both noticed that she was nodding her head as I had described in my description of the syndrome!

You got me!

Of course I was blushing too because – as usual – I had been going on, and on…!