Podcast Episode 117: Neuropathy: A Non-motor Symptom of Parkinson’s Disease

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Neuropathy is a broad category of non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), basically resulting from damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves. It typically may result in numbness, tingling (“pins and needles”), pain, or weakness in the area served by the specific nerve or nerves. Some pain sensations may be sharp, burning, or throbbing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 25% to 30% of Americans will be affected by some degree of neuropathy over their lives, especially as they age. Common risk factors are diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heavy alcohol use, as well as tasks requiring repetitive motions. Neuropathies frequently start in the hands or feet but may occur in other body sites as well.

Neuropathy occurs more frequently among people with PD compared to those without PD, and the reasons are not entirely clear. PD itself may be a factor in neuropathy, and levodopa may contribute to lower vitamin B12 levels, leading to neuropathy. However, not all neuropathies experienced by people with PD are necessarily part of the disease or its treatment, so it is important to have a good medical work-up to determine the cause of the symptoms, some of which may be treatable.

Nurse Practitioner Ellen Walter, MSN, CNP works in the Movement Disorders Section of the Center for Neurological Restoration at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. In this episode, she identifies the general kinds of neuropathies and then focuses on peripheral neuropathies and why it is important to try to identify their causes as a possible path to treatments.

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About This Episode

Released: November 30, 2021

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Ellen Walter, MSN, CNP

Ellen Walter is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at the Cleveland Clinic in the Center for Neurological Restoration.   She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kent State University with a BSN and received her MSN from Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

She has worked for the last 23 years in neuroscience nursing in neurology and neurosurgery practices including caring for individuals who have had deep brain stimulation surgery for the treatment of their movement disorder. She works with a team of specialists in the Movement Disorders section of the Center for Neurological Restoration at the Cleveland Clinic.

Her position there, in addition to caring for those who have had DBS, involves a comprehensive approach caring for persons with Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and other movement disorders. 

She has a special interest in exercise and community outreach for Parkinson’s disease as well as creating programs for the care partners.

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