Causes Of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. A reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
What Are The Symptoms
Each person is affected differently by Parkinsons disease and no two people will experience exactly the same symptoms. The impact of Parkinsons disease can be unpredictable and it is common for people to have good days and bad days.
The main symptoms of Parkinsons disease are:
- balance problems
- problems with posture
Other possible symptoms include difficulty initiating movement , a shuffling gait when walking, and freezing when trying to move . People might experience a loss of facial expression, speech problems , swallowing problems, bowel and bladder problems, difficulties at night and tiredness during the day. Skin can become greasy and people might experience excessive sweating. Sexual problems are common. People often experience depression and anxiety. Another common symptom is small handwriting .
Other less common symptoms can include pain and memory problems.
Designated Centers Treat Parkinsons
The Parkinson’s Foundation leads the development of new treatments through its Centers of Excellence network, comprised of 47 international leading medical centers, staffed by renowned PD specialists. These centers deliver care to more than 193,000 people with Parkinsons. Participating centers also play a key role in the Foundations Parkinsons Outcomes Project, the largest clinical study of Parkinsons ever conducted.
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Key Programs And Resources
The Parkinsons Disease Biomarkers Programs , a major NINDS initiative, is aimed at discovering ways to identify individuals at risk for developing PD and Lewy Body Dementia and to track the progression of the disease. It funds research and collects human biological samples and clinical data to identify biomarkers that will speed the development of novel therapeutics for PD. Goals are improving clinical trials and earlier diagnosis and treatment. Projects are actively recruiting volunteers at sites across the U.S. NINDS also collaborates with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research on BioFIND, a project collecting biological samples and clinical data from healthy volunteers and those with PD. For more information about the PDBP and how you can get involved, please visit the PDBP website.
The NINDS Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinsons Disease Research program supports research centers across the country that work collaboratively to study PD disease mechanisms, the genetic contributions to PD, and potential therapeutic targets and treatment strategies.
The NINDS Intramural Research Program conducts clinical studies to better understand PD mechanisms and develop novel and improve treatments.
The NINDS Biospecimens Repositories store and distribute DNA, cells, blood samples, cerebrospinal fluid, and autopsy tissue to PD researchers around the world.
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When is it considered young-onset Parkinsons disease?Its considered young-onset if diagnosed before the age of 40. The youngest recorded case of Parkinsons was a 12-year-old patient.
How is it diagnosed?There is no blood test or scan that can diagnose Parkinsons disease. Doctors look for four classic symptoms of the disease before reaching a diagnosis: tremors, rigidity in the wrist and elbow joints, lack or slowness of movement, and an unstable posture.
It affects mostly men. Parkinsons disease is twice as likely to affect men than women.
Theres no known cause. There is no known cause of Parkinsons disease although a family history of the disease will increase your risk. Researchers think environmental factors such as smoking, pollution, heavy metals, medications and illegal drugs may be responsible for the onset of the disease. Head trauma, brain inflammation, and stroke have also been associated with the disease.
MORE: Read about the four possible causes of Parkinsons disease.
Parkinsons is expensive. Treating patients with Parkinsons disease costs the U.S. around $25 billion a year. The average patient will need $2,500 worth of medication each year and therapeutic surgery could cost up to $100,000.
Theres a correlation between Parkinsons and depression. Dopamine is also associated with mood as well as movement. Its estimated that more than half of Parkinsons disease patients suffer from depression and around 40 percent suffer from anxiety.
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People With Parkinsons Can Have A Good Quality Life
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment approach when it comes to PD. While medication is the most common treatment, surgical therapy and lifestyle modifications, like rest and exercise, help manage the disease. Shop around until you find what works best. Find your ideal support group, therapist, exercise class and complementary therapy.
Keep reading: Find resources in your area.
What Are The Primary Motor Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
There are four primary motor symptoms of Parkinsons disease: tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability . Observing two or more of these symptoms is the main way that physicians diagnose Parkinsons.
It is important to know that not all of these symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease to be considered. In fact, younger people may only notice one or two of these motor symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. Not everyone with Parkinsons disease has a tremor, nor is a tremor proof of Parkinsons. If you suspect Parkinsons, see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist.
Walking or Gait Difficulties
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Managing Your Mood Is Crucial
Living with a chronic, progressive disease can take a serious emotional toll on patients and their loved ones. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of Parkinsons disease, with up to 60 percent of people who have the disease experiencing mild or moderate depressive symptoms.
“Depression can diminish quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease,” says Witek. “Often providers focus on the most apparent symptoms, such as tremor or walking problems, but if we do not improve their mood, then we will not improve their quality of life.”
Some patients benefit from psychological counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and/or taking medications to help improve their mood. Support groups such as the group hosted by Rush Oak Park Hospital the second Saturday of each month can also help people with Parkinson’s disease learn how to live changed, yet still full lives.
“We work with our patients to find medications and other therapies that will improve their quality of life at every stage of the disease, targeting the symptoms that matter most to them and their families,” says Witek.
What Causes Parkinsons Disease
We do not know what causes Parkinsons disease. There is some evidence to suggest that there is a genetic factor which increases the risk of Parkinsons disease within some families. Also, there might be an increased risk if people have come into contact with a particular toxin or toxins found in the environment via pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture. The specific toxin or toxins have not yet been identified but there is ongoing research into this possible cause.
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What Diseases And Conditions Resemble Parkinsons Disease
PD is the most common form of parkinsonism, in which disorders of other causes produce features and symptoms that closely resemble Parkinsons disease. Many disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of PD, including:
Several diseases, including MSA, CBD, and PSP, are sometimes referred to as Parkinsons-plus diseases because they have the symptoms of PD plus additional features.
In very rare cases, parkinsonian symptoms may appear in people before the age of 20. This condition is called juvenile parkinsonism. It often begins with dystonia and bradykinesia, and the symptoms often improve with levodopa medication.
How Is Parkinsons Diagnosed
Doctors use your medical history and physical examination to diagnose Parkinson’s disease . No blood test, brain scan or other test can be used to make a definitive diagnosis of PD.
Researchers believe that in most people, Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Certain environmental exposures, such as pesticides and head injury, are associated with an increased risk of PD. Still, most people have no clear exposure that doctors can point to as a straightforward cause. The same goes for genetics. Certain genetic mutations are linked to an increased risk of PD. But in the vast majority of people, Parkinsons is not directly related to a single genetic mutation. Learning more about the genetics of Parkinsons is one of our best chances to understand more about the disease and discover how to slow or stop its progression.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
Men are diagnosed with Parkinsons at a higher rate than women and whites more than other races. Researchers are studying these disparities to understand more about the disease and health care access and to improve inclusivity across care and research.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has made finding a test for Parkinsons disease one of our top priorities.
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Do Symptoms Get Worse
PD does not affect everyone the same way. The rate of progression and the particular symptoms differ among individuals.
PD symptoms typically begin on one side of the body. However, the disease eventually affects both sides, although symptoms are often less severe on one side than on the other.
Early symptoms of PD may be subtle and occur gradually. Affected people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. Activities may take longer to complete than in the past. Muscles stiffen and movement may be slower. The persons face may lack expression and animation . People may notice that they speak too softly or with hesitation, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. This very early period may last a long time before the more classical and obvious motor symptoms appear.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may begin to interfere with daily activities. Affected individuals may not be able to hold utensils steady or they may find that the shaking makes reading a newspaper difficult.
People with PD often develop a so-called parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward, taking small quick steps as if hurrying , and reduced swinging in one or both arms. They may have trouble initiating movement , and they may stop suddenly as they walk .
Related Diagnosis: Lewy Body Dementia
Current research is helping to differentiate dementia related conditions in relationship to Parkinsonâs disease. Doctorâs use a 12-month arbitrary rule to aid in diagnosis. When dementia is present before or within 1 year of Parkinsonâs motor symptoms developing, an individual is diagnosed with DLB. Those who have an existing diagnosis of Parkinsonâs for more than a year, and later develop dementia, are diagnosed with PDD.
In the simplest terms, Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of proteins that develop in nerve cells. Cholinesterase inhibitors, medications originally developed for Alzheimerâs disease, are the standard treatment today for cognitive DLB and PDD symptoms. Early diagnosis is important, as DLB patients may respond differently than Alzheimerâs disease patients to certain drug, behavioral, and dementia care treatments.
This challenging, multi-system disorder involving movement, cognition, behavior, sleep, and autonomic function requires a comprehensive treatment approach to maximize the quality of life for both the care recipient and their caregiver. It is very important to pay attention to symptoms of dementia and to search for an expert clinician who can diagnose the condition accurately.
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Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
These common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease often begin gradually and progress over time:
- Shaking or tremor
- Poor posture
- Slowing of body movements
As the disease continues to progress, additional symptoms can occur such as slurred or soft speech, trouble chewing and/or swallowing, memory loss, constipation, trouble sleeping, loss of bladder control, anxiety, depression, inability to regulate body temperature, sexual dysfunction, decreased ability to smell, restless legs and muscle cramps.
Learn More About One Of The Most Common Neurological Conditions
As many as one million people live with Parkinsons disease in the United States and its the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. However, there is still much to learn about Parkinsons disease on many levels, says Tatyana Simuni, MD, director of the Parkinsons Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. When it comes to research and breakthroughs, scientists at Northwestern Medicine are consistently paving the way forward with new strategies for side effects and better insight into slowing the progression.
And in the everyday, here are 7 things you may not know about Parkinsons disease.
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Surprising Facts About Parkinsons Disease
Early warning signs and treatments to delay progression of the disease.
3 min read
Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinsons disease each year. When people think of Parkinsons, tremors, stiffness, and loss of dexterity usually come to mind. But what we now know is that patients with the disease often develop symptoms that may begin months, and sometimes even years, before physical symptoms appear.
Two of these early symptoms are a loss of the sense of smell , and constipation. But the most significant early symptom is a specific sleep problem called REM behavior disorder, or RBD. With RBD, people spend more time in the REM stage of sleep, which is when we dream. In people with RBD, these dreams are very vivid, and are accompanied by vocalizations and movements . These movements can be so frantic that the persons bedmate may need to be careful to avoid injury.
Here are some more facts about Parkinsons disease that may surprise you:
How Can People Cope With Parkinson’s Disease
While PD usually progresses slowly, eventually daily routines may be affectedfrom socializing with friends to earning a living and taking care of a home. These changes can be difficult to accept. Support groups can help people cope with the diseases emotional impact. These groups also can provide valuable information, advice, and experience to help people with PD, their families, and their caregivers deal with a wide range of issues, including locating doctors familiar with the disease and coping with physical limitations. A list of national organizations that can help people locate support groups in their communities appears at the end of this information. Individual or family counseling may also help people find ways to cope with PD.
People with PD may also benefit from being proactive and finding out as much as possible about the disease in order to alleviate fear of the unknown and to take a positive role in maintaining their health. Many people with PD continue to work either full- or part-time, although they may need to adjust their schedule and working environment to accommodate their symptoms.
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Take Care Of Yourself
Probably one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, things caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. This includes maintaining mental and physical health by making and keeping your own medical and dental appointments. As a caregiver, it is important to keep your job whenever possible as it provides not only financial help and possibly insurance coverage, but also a sense of self-esteem. Join a support group for caregivers if possible. Support groups help you meet people who are going through what you are going though, vent frustrations, give and receive mutual support, and exchange resource information and coping strategies. Whenever possible get your sleep, take breaks, make and keep social activities, and try to keep your sense of humor.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease
A substance called dopamine acts as a messenger between two brain areas – the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum – to produce smooth, controlled movements. Most of the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a lack of dopamine due to the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra. When the amount of dopamine is too low, communication between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum becomes ineffective, and movement becomes impaired the greater the loss of dopamine, the worse the movement-related symptoms. Other cells in the brain also degenerate to some degree and may contribute to non-movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Although it is well known that lack of dopamine causes the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it is not clear why the dopamine-producing brain cells deteriorate.
- Genetic and pathological studies have revealed that various dysfunctional cellular processes, inflammation, and stress can all contribute to cell damage.
- In addition, abnormal clumps called Lewy bodies, which contain the protein alpha-synuclein, are found in many brain cells of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The function of these clumps in regards to Parkinson’s disease is not understood.
In general, scientists suspect that dopamine loss is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
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Fact: Exercise Can Help Parkinsons Disease
Yes, doing at least 2.5 hours of exercise a week can slow the progression of Parkinsons disease symptoms.
Those living with Parkinsons should choose exercises which are safe, easy to stick with and, most importantly, enjoyable. Walking, dancing, and light aerobics are popular and can help increase balance and agility.
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Parkinsons can be a lonely experience. Whether with family, friends, or a local group, exercise is a great way to stay social and can boost your mood too.
Exercises for Parkinsons
All exercise is good for you, however certain activities are better suited to the different stages of Parkinsons.
For mild symptoms, focus on exercises that really build up a sweat and get the whole body moving, such as running, cycling or swimming.
For more progressed symptoms, exercises that improve balance and flexibility are ideal. Yoga or a fast paced walk can target specific areas of the body to improve strength.
For complex symptoms, gentle home workouts and chair exercises can help make everyday tasks easier.
Always get advice from a nurse or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise. They may also provide information on Parkinsons exercise classes. If youre looking for inspiration you can also try Parkinsons UKs exercise toolkit.