Treatment Challenges In Women
Women with PD may encounter more problems during treatment than men, and often take longer to seek treatment. A 2011 study found that the time between symptom onset and seeing a movement disorder specialist was 61 percent longer for women.
Women are also exposed to higher doses of PD medications such as levodopa. A 2014 study examined the levels of levodopa in the blood of 128 people with PD over 3 hours. It found that levodopa concentrations were significantly higher in women than in men during this time.
Women also receive DBS or surgery less often than men do. A small 2003 study found that at the time of surgery, women had a longer duration of disease than men . They also had more severe symptoms. However, after surgery they experienced more improved quality of life.
A 2014 study found that although DBS was equally effective for men and women, women were less likely to be treated due to more severe dyskinesia. Additionally, a
Is Parkinsons Disease Inherited
Scientists have discovered gene mutations that are associated with Parkinsons disease.
There is some belief that some cases of early-onset Parkinsons disease disease starting before age 50 may be inherited. Scientists identified a gene mutation in people with Parkinsons disease whose brains contain Lewy bodies, which are clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Scientists are trying to understand the function of this protein and its relationship to genetic mutations that are sometimes seen in Parkinsons disease and in people with a type of dementia called Lewy body dementia.
Several other gene mutations have been found to play a role in Parkinsons disease. Mutations in these genes cause abnormal cell functioning, which affects the nerve cells ability to release dopamine and causes nerve cell death. Researchers are still trying to discover what causes these genes to mutate in order to understand how gene mutations influence the development of Parkinsons disease.
Scientists think that about 10% to 15% of persons with Parkinsons disease may have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to development of the disease. There are also environmental factors involved that are not fully understood.
What Is The Prognosis And Life Expectancy For Parkinson’s Disease
The severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs vary greatly from person to person, and it is not possible to predict how quickly the disease will progress.
- Parkinson’s disease itself is not a fatal disease, and the average life expectancy is similar to that of people without the disease.
- Secondary complications, such as pneumonia, falling-related injuries, and choking can lead to death.
- Many treatment options can reduce some of the symptoms and prolong the quality of life.
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How Is Parkinsons Disease Diagnosed
Diagnosing Parkinsons disease is sometimes difficult, since early symptoms can mimic other disorders and there are no specific blood or other laboratory tests to diagnose the disease. Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, may be used to rule out other disorders that cause similar symptoms.
To diagnose Parkinsons disease, you will be asked about your medical history and family history of neurologic disorders as well as your current symptoms, medications and possible exposure to toxins. Your doctor will look for signs of tremor and muscle rigidity, watch you walk, check your posture and coordination and look for slowness of movement.
If you think you may have Parkinsons disease, you should probably see a neurologist, preferably a movement disorders-trained neurologist. The treatment decisions made early in the illness can affect the long-term success of the treatment.
Medications For People With Parkinsons Disease
Symptoms of Parkinsons disease result from the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and other organs such as the gut, which produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This causes a deficiency in the availability of dopamine, which is necessary for smooth and controlled movements. Medication therapy focuses on maximising the availability of dopamine in the brain. Medication regimes are individually tailored to your specific need. Parkinsons medications fit into one of the following broad categories:
- levodopa dopamine replacement therapy
- dopamine agonists mimic the action of dopamine
- COMT inhibitors used along with levodopa. This medication blocks an enzyme known as COMT to prevent levodopa breaking down in the intestine, allowing more of it to reach the brain
- anticholinergics block the effect of another brain chemical to rebalance its levels with dopamine
- amantadine has anticholinergic properties and improves dopamine transmission
- MAO type B inhibitors prevent the metabolism of dopamine within the brain.
Incidence Of Parkinsons Disease
Its estimated that approximately four people per 1,000 in Australia have Parkinsons disease, with the incidence increasing to one in 100 over the age of 60. In Australia, there are approximately 80,000 people living with Parkinsons disease, with one in five of these people being diagnosed before the age of 50. In Victoria, more than 2,225 people are newly diagnosed with Parkinsons every year.
Advanced Parkinsons Disease Symptoms
Parkinsons disease typically occurs in adults as they age and is characterized by tremors in the hands, arms, legs, and face, as well as slow movement, poor balance, and lack of coordination.
- Tremors or shaking
- Changes in posture, walking, and facial expression
- Difficulty walking, talking, eating, or dressing
In the final two stages, when the disease has progressed to advanced Parkinsons, the symptoms become more severe and limiting. These include:
- Needing a walker or wheelchair to move
- Needing help with daily activities
- Having stiffness in the legs that makes it difficult to stand or walk
- Becoming bedridden
- Experiencing hallucinations and delusions
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Trouble Moving Or Walking
Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms dont swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem stuck to the floor.
What is normal?If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.
Medicines For Parkinson’s Disease
Medicines prescribed for Parkinson’s include:
- Drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain
- Drugs that affect other brain chemicals in the body
- Drugs that help control nonmotor symptoms
The main therapy for Parkinson’s is levodopa, also called L-dopa. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine to replenish the brain’s dwindling supply. Usually, people take levodopa along with another medication called carbidopa. Carbidopa prevents or reduces some of the side effects of levodopa therapysuch as nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and restlessnessand reduces the amount of levodopa needed to improve symptoms.
People with Parkinson’s should never stop taking levodopa without telling their doctor. Suddenly stopping the drug may have serious side effects, such as being unable to move or having difficulty breathing.
Other medicines used to treat Parkinsons symptoms include:
- Dopamine agonists to mimic the role of dopamine in the brain
- MAO-B inhibitors to slow down an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain
- COMT inhibitors to help break down dopamine
- Amantadine, an old antiviral drug, to reduce involuntary movements
- Anticholinergic drugs to reduce tremors and muscle rigidity
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What Causes Parkinsons Symptoms
While Parkinsons diseases impact on the brain is better understood today, the cause of the condition is unknown. Research points to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Scientists are looking for links between Parkinsons disease and genetics, aging, toxins in the environment, and free radicals, which react with certain chemicals in the body and may interfere with the ability of cells to function normally.
The process of impairment of brain cells is called neurodegeneration. When approximately 60 to 80 percent of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of Parkinsons disease appear. This results in an aggravation of motor and non motor symptoms.
What Causes Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease occurs when nerve cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra become impaired or die. These cells normally produce dopamine, a chemical that helps the cells of the brain communicate . When these nerve cells become impaired or die, they produce less dopamine. Dopamine is especially important for the operation of another area of the brain called the basal ganglia. This area of the brain is responsible for organizing the brains commands for body movement. The loss of dopamine causes the movement symptoms seen in people with Parkinsons disease.
People with Parkinsons disease also lose another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. This chemical is needed for proper functioning of the sympathetic nervous system. This system controls some of the bodys autonomic functions such as digestion, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Loss of norepinephrine causes some of the non-movement-related symptoms of Parkinsons disease.
Scientists arent sure what causes the neurons that produce these neurotransmitter chemicals to die.
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Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinson’s disease has four main symptoms:
- Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Symptoms of Parkinsons and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Sometimes people dismiss early symptoms of Parkinson’s as the effects of normal aging. In most cases, there are no medical tests to definitively detect the disease, so it can be difficult to diagnose accurately.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are subtle and occur gradually. For example, affected people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. They may notice that they speak too softly, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. Friends or family members may be the first to notice changes in someone with early Parkinson’s. They may see that the person’s face lacks expression and animation, or that the person does not move an arm or leg normally.
People with Parkinson’s often develop a parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward, small quick steps as if hurrying forward, and reduced swinging of the arms. They also may have trouble initiating or continuing movement.
How Do I Prevent Falls From Common Hazards
- Floors: Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its usual place.
- Bathroom: Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower. Use non-skid bath mats on the floor or install wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Lighting: Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well-lit. Install a night light in your bathroom or hallway and staircase. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night. Make sure lamps or light switches are within reach of the bed if you have to get up during the night.
- Kitchen: Install non-skid rubber mats near the sink and stove. Clean spills immediately.
- Stairs: Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure. Install a rail on both sides of the stairs. If stairs are a threat, it might be helpful to arrange most of your activities on the lower level to reduce the number of times you must climb the stairs.
- Entrances and doorways: Install metal handles on the walls adjacent to the doorknobs of all doors to make it more secure as you travel through the doorway.
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Environmental Factors And Exposures
Exposure to pesticides and a history of head injury have each been linked with PD, but the risks are modest. Never drinking caffeinated beverages is also associated with small increases in risk of developing PD.
Low concentrations of urate in the blood is associated with an increased risk of PD.
Different medical drugs have been implicated in cases of parkinsonism. Drug-induced parkinsonism is normally reversible by stopping the offending agent. Drugs include:
Most Common Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects the nervous system, causing gradual loss of muscle control. According to Parkinson Canada, it occurs when cells that normally product dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain, die.
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The symptoms of Parkinsons disease present themselves slowly, and worsen as the condition progresses over time. Although they vary from person to person, the following are the six most common signs of the condition.
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Contact Our Information And Referral Helpline
The Parkinson Canada Information and Referral Helpline is a toll-free Canada-wide number for people living with Parkinsons, their caregivers and health care professionals. We provide free and confidential non-medical information and referral services. When you have questions or need assistance, our information and referral staff help connect you with resources and community programs and services that can help you. We provide help by phone or email, Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. ET.
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3. Loss of SmellMany people temporarily lose their sense of smell due to colds or the flu, but if the loss is sustained over a length of time without any noticeable congestion, then it could be an early sign of Parkinsons disease.
4. Sleeping DisordersTrouble sleeping can be attributed to many illnesses and Parkinsons disease is one of them. Waking due to sudden body movements, or thrashing your legs in your sleep could be a warning sign of the condition.
5. Stiffness in Walking and MovingGeneral stiffness that cant be attributed to exercise aches and pains and doesnt ease up when moving around could be an early warning sign of Parkinsons disease. Many patients complain that it feels like their feet are literally stuck to the floor.
6. ConstipationUnable to move your bowels is also a common early sign of Parkinsons disease. Although this is a common enough problem in healthy people, Parkinsons patients are more susceptible to constipation. If you suddenly find youre constipated and consider your diet normal then you should have a doctor check you out.
7. Low or Soft VoiceA sore throat or a cold can change the way you speak, but if you have been experiencing a sudden softness to the tone of your voice and are now speaking in a quieter or hoarser tone, this could be an early symptom of Parkinsons disease.
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Parkinsons Early Signs & Symptoms
Due to the complexity of the disease, a diagnosis of PD is based on a variety of factors. Parkinsons early signs include a wide range of cognitive, mood and motor symptoms.
- Difficulty walking, the inability to walk naturally or swing ones arms is an early symptom of PD. People with PD also may take short, uneven steps , suffer from freezing spells, as well as experience difficulty judging obstacles and negotiating turns and corners.
- Tremors, particularly in the arms or hands. In early stages of the disease, tremor is usually experienced in one limb or on one side of the body, but other parts of the body may be affected as the disease progresses.
- Bradykinesia is the gradual degradation of movement caused by the brains lethargy in transmitting instructions to the desired parts of the body. Bradykinesia can affect facial muscles that may give the sufferer a mask-like appearance.
- Trouble with balance can be an early warning symptom of PD.
- Depression is common for people with PD.
- Loss of fine motor skills.
- Loss of sense of smell.
- Changes in handwriting, either shaky handwriting or writing smaller than usual.
- Changes in voice and speech patterns, such as softening voice or difficulty enunciating.
- Trouble sleeping or REM Sleep Behavior Disorder , which causes people to act out dreams.
- Memory loss, trouble problem-solving or decline in mental abilities.
- Skin disorders such as dry rough skin or dandruff.
Exercise And Healthy Eating
Regular exercise is particularly important in helping relieve muscle stiffness, improving your mood, and relieving stress.
You should also try to eat a balanced diet containing all the food groups to give your body the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
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Studies Of Patients With Non
The Parkinsons Associated Risk Study is an ongoing large study whose goal is to evaluate specific tests for their ability to predict an increased risk of PD. The ultimate goal is to find a set of tests that can predict the future development of PD. The study has evaluated smell tests, questionnaires that probe mood, bowel habits and sleep disorders, as well as the dopamine transporter imaging test, commonly referred to as DaTscan.
A DaTscan involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive tracer into the bloodstream. The tracer makes its way into the brain and binds to the dopamine transporters, which are molecules on the surface of the dopamine neurons. In PD, there are fewer of these neurons and therefore there is less uptake of the tracer in the brain. A brain scan then determines if the amount of uptake of the tracer is normal or decreased. Currently, this test is approved to distinguish between PD and a neurologic condition known as essential tremor, a tremor disorder which is not caused by an abnormality of the dopamine system.
DaTscan is not yet approved to determine if patients who are experiencing only the non-motor symptoms of PD, in fact have PD. However, it is known that a DaTscan can be abnormal even before motor symptoms are present. The PARS study is investigating whether in the future, a DaTscan can be part of an algorithm to determine who is at risk of developing PD.
Tips and takeaways
Dr. Rebecca Gilbert
APDA Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer