TODAY   |  August 26, 2013

Snyderman: You can’t sing with Parkinson’s

NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman says Linda Ronstadt’s career as a singer may be over, because Parkinson’s affects vocal cords like any other muscle in the body.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical director . saying that parkinson's robs you of your voice, how can that happen?

>> vocal chords are muscles. it causes stiffness and slowing down of the muscles. no reason to think your voice wouldn't be effected too. people that speak for a living can get by with it but when you have to rely on the fine muscles of a vocal chord a singer can't do what she needs to do.

>> like holding a note.

>> yeah.

>> some of these symptoms started years ago in conjunction with other diseases. is that common.

>> linda had a tick bite and developed weird, mild symptoms so you think well maybe i have a mild case of lime disease . then she had shoulder surgery and when her hands started trembling she thought perhaps it was due to her shoulder but the stiffness and changes in muscles can be gradual. it can be one side of the body and not both. and there's where the fingers literally go like this. and unless a doctor who hasn't seen these other isolated incidents looks at you and said you're pill rolling, you have a tremor at rest or your hands move, only then can they say none of that other stuff matters, you have parkinsons.

>> this is famously difficult to diagnose. for those on the look out for signs, what do you look for?

>> you look for just those things. change in speech. change in how you can walk. you're feeling like your feet are stuck to the ground. a stiffness. a change in gate. i mean, any of these sort of automatic movements that you take for granted. those things. but the tremor is a hallmark and the treatment is medicine first. there's a chemical in the brain called dopamine and those levels drop. the idea is to get them back up to normal. medicine works well. it's not a curable disease but you can make the disease slow down it's progress and there's things like deep brain stimulation and surgery further down the line. but medicine is the first trick.

>> and linda ronstadt .

>> we love linda and want her to get -- she will get all the good treatment she needs.