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.
Do What You Can While You Can
I have had Parkinsons disease for nearly 20 years. My wife is a teacher, so we travel every summer when she is not working. Since my diagnosis, I have been to China, Nepal, Prague, Paris and many other places. The Parkinsons comes along, too, so our trips require more planning than they used to and we involve my care team. We factor in daily naps and take it slow. My balance isnt as good as it used to be and too much walking wears me out so we bring a collapsible wheelchair along or make sure one is available. I also use a cane. I dont know how many more places we will get to visit as my disease continues to progress, but we have made some wonderful memories that we wouldnt have if we had let my Parkinsons dictate every aspect of our lives. Nicholas, diagnosed at 52, still traveling at 72
Many people with Parkinsons disease are not allowing the condition to take over their lives. Despite the everyday setbacks they face, they are still creating fulfilling lives for themselves by redirecting their attention to people and activities that bring them joy. You can do the same. Try building a few hobbies into your routine that will give you a break from dwelling on the disease. Find some activities that help you forget about Parkinsons for a while. That may be painting, writing, gardening, or reading to your grandchildren.
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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Stage Two Of Parkinsons Disease
Stage two is still considered early disease in PD, and it is characterized by symptoms on both sides of the body or at the midline without impairment to balance. Stage two may develop months or years after stage one.
Symptoms of PD in stage two may include the loss of facial expression on both sides of the face, decreased blinking, speech abnormalities, soft voice, monotone voice, fading volume after starting to speak loudly, slurring speech, stiffness or rigidity of the muscles in the trunk that may result in neck or back pain, stooped posture, and general slowness in all activities of daily living. However, at this stage the individual is still able to perform tasks of daily living.
Diagnosis may be easy at this stage if the patient has a tremor however, if stage one was missed and the only symptoms of stage two are slowness or lack of spontaneous movement, PD could be misinterpreted as only advancing age.
What Are The Different Stages Of Parkinsons Disease
Each person with Parkinsons disease experiences symptoms in in their own unique way. Not everyone experiences all symptoms of Parkinsons disease. You may not experience symptoms in the same order as others. Some people may have mild symptoms others may have intense symptoms. How quickly symptoms worsen also varies from individual to individual and is difficult to impossible to predict at the outset.
In general, the disease progresses from early stage to mid-stage to mid-late-stage to advanced stage. This is what typically occurs during each of these stages:
Early symptoms of Parkinsons disease are usually mild and typically occur slowly and do not interfere with daily activities. Sometimes early symptoms are not easy to detect or you may think early symptoms are simply normal signs of aging. You may have fatigue or a general sense of uneasiness. You may feel a slight tremor or have difficulty standing.
Often, a family member or friend notices some of the subtle signs before you do. They may notice things like body stiffness or lack of normal movement slow or small handwriting, lack of expression in your face, or difficulty getting out of a chair.
Standing and walking are becoming more difficult and may require assistance with a walker. You may need full time help to continue to live at home.
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Improving Your Motor Skills
- Work on your tremor. This may include things like putting a little weight on your hand to help reduce tremor and restore control.
- Improve speech quality by working with a speech therapist .
- Reduce problems with eating and drooling by changing how and what you eat.
- Practice overcoming “freezing” with various techniques, such as stepping toward a specific target on the ground.
- Be open about sexual function problems. Talk to your doctor about your specific issues. He or she may be able to suggest a change in your treatment, such as a change in your medicine or exercise.
Stooping Or Hunched Posture
People who have Parkinsons disease may notice changes in their posture due to other symptoms of the disease, such as muscle rigidity.
People naturally stand so that their weight is evenly distributed over their feet. However, people who have Parkinsons disease may start bending forward, making them appear hunched or stooped over.
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In The Loop: Staying Ahead Of Parkinsons Disease One Ping Pong Game At A Time
Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Steve Grinnell has worked hard to stay active, stepping up his table tennis game and, thanks to co-workers, testing his skills outside his home.
Four years ago, Steve Grinnell’s life was forever changed when doctors at Mayo Clinic in Rochester diagnosed him with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Since that time, the progressive nervous system disorder has begun to take a toll on Steve and his family, just as it does on the millions of other Americans living with the disease. “It has greatly diminished his quality of life, leaving him with tremors, physical exhaustion, impaired balance, troubled grasping things with his right hand, slow right-arm movement and problems sleeping,” the Rochester Post-Bulletin recently reported. “That’s to name just a few of his symptoms.”
Reading that, one might assume the disorder is winning. And to Steve, sometimes it feels like it is. But much of the time, he tells us he also feels like he’s staying one step ahead of the disease by staying as physically active as possible. “Parkinson’s presents such a conundrum because it wears you down physically, and yet exercise is so valuable,” Steve says. “My legs, feet and right arm are always cramping, so it takes mental effort to get moving.”
Depression And Anxiety Are Also Early Warning Signs Of Parkinson’s How So
A: Like the other symptoms discussed here, late-onset depression and anxiety are nonmotor prodromal manifestations of the condition. It’s not that everyone who is depressed will get Parkinson’s, and the numbers are lower than they are for symptoms like anosmia and REM behavior disorder. But the link is important to explore, and we are doing more research on it all the time.
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What If You Have Parkinson’s
After Parkinson’s is diagnosed, your doctor will help you develop an individualized plan to address the symptoms that have the biggest impact on your everyday life and help slow down the progression of the disease. The first step is getting a referral to a neurologist for expert care especially one who is trained in movement disorders.
Why Is Expert Care Important
Early expert care can help reduce PD complications. Findings show that 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s fall short of getting the expert care they need. The National Parkinson Foundation has estimated that about 6,400 people with Parkinson’s die unnecessarily each year due to poor care.
Trained neurologists will help you recognize, treat and manage the disease. Common approaches include medication, surgical treatment, lifestyle modifications , physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The best approach is interdisciplinary care, where you are seen by multiple specialists on a regular basis and all of the specialists talk and arrange the best possible coordinated care. This is what is referred to as a patient-centric approach to Parkinson’s care.
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What Is Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder. Characteristics of Parkinsons disease are progressive loss of muscle control, which leads to trembling of the limbs and head while at rest, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance. As symptoms worsen, it may become difficult to walk, talk, and complete simple tasks.
The progression of Parkinson’s disease and the degree of impairment varies from person to person. Many people with Parkinson’s disease live long productive lives, whereas others become disabled much more quickly. Complications of Parkinsons such as falling-related injuries or pneumonia. However, studies of patent populations with and without Parkinsons Disease suggest the life expectancy for people with the disease is about the same as the general population.
Most people who develop Parkinson’s disease are 60 years of age or older. Since overall life expectancy is rising, the number of individuals with Parkinson’s disease will increase in the future. Adult-onset Parkinson’s disease is most common, but early-onset Parkinson’s disease , and juvenile-onset Parkinson’s disease can occur.
Reduced Sense Of Smell
Most Parkinsons patients in their early stage are reported to have a reduced sense of smell. This problem occurs several years prior to the appearance of motor symptoms, and therefore researchers think that this could be among the early warning signs of the disease.
The link between loss of smell and Parkinsons disease has been increasingly realized in recent years. In fact, newresearch suggests that it could be one of the screening tools for diagnosing Parkinsons disease.
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Stiffness And Slow Movement
Parkinsons disease mainly affects adults older than 60. You may feel stiff and a little slow to get going in the morning at this stage of your life. This is a completely normal development in many healthy people. The difference with PD is that the stiffness and slowness it causes dont go away as you get up and start your day.
Stiffness of the limbs and slow movement appear early on with PD. These symptoms are caused by the impairment of the neurons that control movement. A person with PD will notice jerkier motions and move in a more uncoordinated pattern than before. Eventually, a person may develop the characteristic shuffling gait.
Managing Depression In Parkinsons Disease
People with Parkinsons, family members and caregivers may not always recognize the signs of depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing depression as a symptom of Parkinsons, it is important to know it can be treated.
Here are some suggestions:
- For information and support on living well with Parkinsons disease, contact our Information and Referral line.
- As much as possible, remain socially engaged and physically active. Resist the urge to isolate yourself.
- You may want to consult a psychologist and there are medications that help relieve depression in people with Parkinsons, including nortriptyline and citalopram .
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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.
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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 Parkinsons Disease
Research conducted by the Parkinsons Foundation reveals that exercising at least 2.5 hours per week improves symptoms and slows disease progression. The group also found that the earlier patients began exercising, the more pronounced the benefits were.
To help with balance and mobility, the Foundation recommends aerobics, strength-training, and flexibility exercises. Popular options include:
- Weight lifting
The real secret to the best exercise program, though, is doing what you enjoy. For some ideas, please see our previous articles on strength-building exercise and how to begin an exercise program. And remember, never begin a new exercise regimen without talking to your doctor.
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If You Have Parkinson’s Disease
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, call your doctor if:
- You notice any significant change in your symptoms, such as severe episodes of freezinga sudden loss of mobilitywhich may affect walking.
- Your response to your medicine changes.
- Any other symptoms occur, such as constipation, sexual problems, or incontinence.
- You have symptoms of depression, such as feeling sad or losing interest in daily activities.
- You or your family notice that you have problems with memory and thinking ability.
But Were Going To Focus On The Following Seven Signals:
- Sleep disorders. The most common disorders are insomnia , restless legs syndrome, and REM sleep behavior disorder.
- This is one of the first symptoms to appear. In fact, it is considered an early indication of the disease.
- Other mood changes. In addition to the depressive symptoms, anxiety and apathy are very common. These symptoms can influence the desire to seek help and a solution.
- Cognitive changes. Many people with early onset Parkinsons disease usually find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time. Performing tasks is slow. The speed of thought is slower. They have problems with attention and concentration. They experience memory problems. Together with dementia, these are all symptoms of early onset Parkinsons disease.
- Usually we see the symptoms first on the hands. But in other patients, they can start in the jaw or feet. The most characteristic of this trembling is that it occurs in a state of rest.
- Bradykinesia. This is a gradual loss of spontaneous movement. The general movement just slows down. This is one of the symptoms that most incapacitates and frustrates the affected people.
- In an early form of Parkinsons disease, the patient always feels tired even though he has not exerted himself at all.
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Where To Get More Information
- If you’re experiencing any symptoms and are concerned, see your GP.
- To learn more about Parkinson’s disease and to find support, visit Parkinson’s Australia or call the Info Line on 1800 644 189.
- The Shake It Up Australia Foundation partners with The Michael J. Fox Foundation to help raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s disease research.
- The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is working hard to find ways to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier and repurpose existing drugs to slow its progress. Find out more here.