Today was a little better, but not much.  So far, the decline is having more of a permanent than a temporary feel.  As always, tomorrow things may change.

It’s all about the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  I have just been looking at some online information about the ANS, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, a subset of the ANS, and Acetycholine, a basic Neurotransmitter that communicates messages to various parts of the body.

Sounds technical, but for me it has very practical implications.  The messages that are communicated from the ANS impact the movement of the iris/pupil in the eyes, the glands, sweating, the mucosa (nose running and drooling), the smooth muscles of the heart, the vascular system and its capacity to constrict and dilate blood vessels, the alimentary canal from top to bottom, food entering, begin digested and waste leaving, bladder function and urine production.

The list of actions under the control of the Autonomic Nervous System is a list of Mary Ann’s Problems.

We have gone to the Optometrist many times to try to get glasses that will fix her eyes ability to focus and make reading possible.  Her eyes and those of many with Parkinson’s will not cooperate.  Changes in glasses have no impact on the problem.  It is a combination of the ability to concentrate and the eyes inability to function normally.

There is hardly need to say again just how debilitating the daily sweats are when they come.  The fact the the ANS acetylcholine transmitter talks to the sweat glands and other glands in the body is very revealing.

Mary Ann’s nose has been running constantly for a decade.  We buy four ten packs of Kleenexes when we go to Sam’s Club.

The problems Mary Ann has with her heart may or may not have anything to do with the ANS, but certainly her life long problem with high blood pressure and now low blood pressure does.  The ability of the blood vessels to constrict when standing up is governed by the ANS as it connects with the smooth muscles around the blood vessels.  That ability is compromised by the disease and medications.

The workings of the alimentary canal are an obvious problem as Mary Ann has struggled with constipation for most of her life, now worsened by the Parkinson’s and meds as the smooth muscles around that canal slow.

The frequent urination and incontinence are on the list of bodily functions impacted by the Autonomic Nervous System.  Our lives are dominated by the actions of that canal.

I guess it doesn’t really make any difference that I can see the connection between Mary Ann’s many non-motor symptoms and the Autonomic Nervous system, but somehow it seems helpful to put some of the pieces together.  I don’t like it any better, but I understand it better.

One thing that is clearer to me is that there is not a whole lot we can do about the decline that is happening.  The Autonomic Nervous System governs involuntary actions.  We can’t decide to make it work better.  It has a mind of its own.

It is just confirmation of the obvious: we are not in control.  We can watch and react, we can whine and complain, but we can’t fix it.   We are left to live with it.  That is what we are doing.

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