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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

Is the Pope's Parkinson's to Blame for Illness?

Experts Analyze the Impact of Parkinson's Disease on the Pope's Current Condition
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WebMD Health News

Feb. 25, 2005 -- The word from the Vatican Friday was decidedly upbeat, a day after Pope John Paul II was rushed to the hospital for the second time in a month with a serious breathing problem.

The 84-year-old pontiff was said to be breathing on his own with no signs of pneumonia after undergoing surgeryundergoing surgery to cut a small hole in his neck to help him breathe.

The latest crisis was originally said to be a relapse of the same breathing problems that led to his hospitalization for 10 days earlier this month. But there is increasing speculation that the long-frail pope's ongoing medical problems may be driven by his lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease.Parkinson's disease.

Although it is not clear how long Pope John Paul has had the progressive movement disorder, experts tell WebMD that there are many signs that his disease is in the late stages.late stages.

Neurologist and Parkinson's specialist Melissa Nirenberg, MD, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center says the pope's stiffness, stooped posture, and that he seems to have so much difficulty moving are all indications that his disease has progressed.

"He looks like someone who is undermedicatedundermedicated, but that may mean that he is no longer responding well to the medication he is on," says Nirenberg, who is a spokeswoman for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. "Usually the longer a patient has had the disease the less benefit they get [from medication]."

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