Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder affecting the nervous system, where nerve cells (neurons) that produce the chemical dopamine, either die or do not produce enough of this chemical. Dopamine plays an important part in ensuring that nerve cells coordinate movements properly and the lack of dopamine most prominently affects coordination of body movement. Parkinson’s disease is incurable and while the condition may be managed to varying levels, ultimately, the condition worsens with time.
Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
There is no known cause of Parkinson’s disease although there are theories that it may be related to genetic defects or even pollution and certain toxins in the environment. It is known that persons with certain lifestyles may be more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease but as yet, the link has not been conclusively proven. A family history of Parkinson’s disease is also a risk factor for developing the condition, particularly if one or more relatives have the condition. Parkinson’s disease is more common in the elderly, especially in Caucasian men over the age of 50 years, although it may develop in younger adults. This young-onset Parkinson’s disease is uncommon and may occur in the late 30s or 40s. Very few cases of Parkinson’s disease has ever been recorded in children or adolescents.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
The most prominent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is the tremor, often referred to as the Parkinson’s tremor. It is a resting tremor, meaning that it is most pronounced when the affected part of the body is at rest and eases or ceases altogether during movement. This is an early symptom and Parkinson’s tremor later in the disease is pronounced to the point that it occurs even during movement. Other common symptoms in Parkinson’s disease includes :
- Bradykinesia or slowness of movement, where there is difficulty in initiating movement causing a characteristic slow motion that is associated with the disease.
- Rigidity or muscle stiffness, which may be severe and cause significant discomfort or pain.
- Difficulty in maintaining posture and balance, and Parkinson’s patients often stoop.
- A lack of coordination is another noticeable symptom will vary in severity, depending on the stage of the disease.
The presence of the above signs and symptoms are usually sufficient to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Other symptoms of this condition include :
- Naturally occurring movements, like smiling and blinking, are affected as the disease progresses, and these unconscious acts typically gives a Parkinson’s patient a characteristic grim expression with a staring gaze.
- There may be changes in speech, ranging from an expressionless tone (monotone), soft (low volume) speech, slurring and hesitant or repetitive speech (similar to a stutter).
- Personality changes may also be noticed, like depression and aggression, but these are usually related to the the patient’s response to the condition. However, dementia can develop in the late stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Treatment of Parkinson’s disease depends almost entirely on anti-Parkinsonism drugs, usually levodopa and carbidopa. Dosages of these drugs may vary as the disease progresses and as individual tolerance develops. However, to date, no other procedures, or alternative therapies have shown much promise in adequately managing the condition like Parkinson’s drugs. Living with Parkinson’s disease also involves managing the condition on an individual basis to ensure a good quality of life and catering for any impairment of daily functioning due to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.