Charleston Fire Chief diagnosed with Parkinson's

CHARLESTON, SC - CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Fire Chief Tom Carr has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Carr informed his superiors and his staff Tuesday and also told them he will not be stepping down.

"I'm being treated with medication and it's helpful. It puts me in a position where I am able to work and do the things the vision of the department has laid out," Carr said.

Parkinson's disease (PD) is one of a larger group of neurological conditions called motor system disorders.  Historians have found evidence of the disease as far back as 5000 B.C. It was first described as "the shaking palsy" in 1817 by British doctor James Parkinson. Because of Parkinson's early work in identifying symptoms, the disease came to bear his name.
Approximately, 1 million Americans are living with PD today.

PD results from a progressive loss of a dopamine producing cells in a portion of the brain.  This chemical, dopamine, normally transmits signals within the brain to produce smooth movement of muscles. In Parkinson's patients, 80 percent or more of these dopamine-producing cells are damaged, dead, or otherwise degenerated. This change in nerve activity affects a person's ability to control their muscle movements. Symptoms usually show up in one or more of four ways:

  • Tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Stiff muscles
  • Slow movement
  • Problems with balance or walking

What causes PD? The exact cause is not yet known. Factors that have been implicated in the development of PD include genetic abnormalities, environmental exposures, or some combination of the two. A small amount of people have an early onset form which is typically caused by an inherited gene defect.

How is PD diagnosed? There are no tests to definitively diagnose PD.  Physicians use a combination of physical exam, patient history, radiological imaging and patients' response to medication to establish the diagnosis.

How is PD treated?  Medications which increase brain levels of the chemical dopamine are the mainstay of PD treatment.  Patients also benefit from physical and speech therapy. In select cases, patients may improve their symptoms through surgical procedures.

What is the prognosis for PD? Each patient's prognosis is individual.  No one test can predict how rapid or slow the disease will progress. Importantly, with aggressive management and physical therapy, patients with PD will lead active productive lifestyles.

For additional information about Parkinson's logon to the following websites:,, and

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