Recently, former President George H.W. Bush revealed in an interview with PARADE Magazine that he has vascular parkinsonism.
While not meeting the criteria for true Parkinson’s disease (PD), vascular parkinsonism mimics many features of PD. As its name implies, vascular parkinsonism is often due to problems with the vessels in the brain regions that control movement and small strokes are the primary cause. Although small strokes will cumulatively worsen the symptoms of vascular parkinsonism, it is otherwise not considered a progressive neurodegenerative disease like PD.
People with vascular parkinsonism often experience a “lower body parkinsonism” and have trouble with walking and maintaining balance – much like people with classic Parkinson's. President Bush reports that he experiences such symptoms. Generally, people with vascular PD are less likely to have the Involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw or tongue. The typical Parkinson’s tremor is “pill-rolling” – it looks like holding a pill between thumb and forefinger and continuously rolling it around. Some people report an internal tremor, a shaking sensation inside the chest, abdomen or limbs that cannot be seen. Most Parkinson’s tremor is “resting tremor,” which lessens during sleep and when the body part is actively in use. of Parkinson’s disease.
Because the cause of vascular parkinsonism is fundamentally different from true PD, people do not always respond well to the current Parkinson’s disease medications.
Like all people who struggle with a neurological disease, President Bush has many obstacles to overcome. Because his disease can mimic true PD, his story emphasizes the importance of getting an accurate diagnosis from a movement disorders specialist in order to best manage one’s disease. The Parkinson's Foundation maintains a nationwide list of movement disorder specialists and encourages you to call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636) or email us at email@example.com to find one in your area.