What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:
- tremor or shaking, often when resting or tired. It usually begins in one arm or hand
- muscle rigidity or stiffness, which can limit movement and may be painful
- slowing of movement, which may lead to periods of freezing and small shuffling steps
- stooped posture and balance problems
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person as well as over time. Some people also experience:
- loss of unconscious movements, such as blinking and smiling
- difficulties with handwriting
- drop in blood pressure leading to dizziness
- difficulty swallowing
Many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease could be caused by other conditions. For example, stooped posture could be caused by osteoporosis. But if you are worried by your symptoms, it is a good idea to see your doctor.
What Looks Like Parkinsons But Isnt
Dr. Fernandez describes two main Parkinsons mimics:
Essential tremor. Also known as benign essential tremor or familial tremor, this movement disorder causes brief, uncontrollable shaking.
It most often affects your hands, but can also affect your head and neck, larynx and other areas. In rare cases, it affects your lower body as well.
But one clue can help distinguish essential tremor from Parkinsons.
This is not an absolute rule, but if shaking occurs at rest, it often is Parkinsons. And if shaking occurs in action, such as when youre writing or eating, it is essential tremor, Dr. Fernandez says.
About half of those with essential tremor have a family history of the condition.
Unlike Parkinsons, essential tremor is generally not perceived as a progressive disorder, and, if mild, may not require treatment.
Doctors can prescribe medications to reduce shaking, but they are not the same drugs used to treat Parkinsons, he says.
Drug-induced Parkinsons. Along with shaking, this condition may cause many symptoms similar to Parkinsons disease, including stiffness, slow movement, a decrease in facial expression and a change in speech.
As the name suggests, taking certain drugs, most commonly antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, can trigger this condition. How long it takes to develop can vary greatly, depending on which drug youre taking, how long you take it and the dosage.
Your doctor likely will treat drug-induced Parkinsons by adjusting your medication.
Locating The Basal Ganglia
The basal ganglia are collections of nerve cells located deep within the brain. They include the following:
The basal ganglia help initiate and smooth out muscle movements, suppress involuntary movements, and coordinate changes in posture.
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Depression And Parkinsons Disease
Depression is common in people with Parkinsons disease, occurring in about 40% to 50% of patients. Depression can worsen when the disease becomes more advanced and treatment becomes less effective. Mental health counseling and treatment options are available to help people living with APD. Seek help if you or a loved one is experiencing depression with their Parkinsons.
What Makes Them Different
MS and Parkinsonâs have different causes. They usually start to affect you at different ages, too.
MS often affects people between ages 20 and 50, but children get it, too. Parkinsonâs usually starts at age 60 or older, but some younger adults get it.
MS is an autoimmune disease. That means your bodyâs immune system goes haywire for some reason. It attacks and destroys myelin. As myelin breaks down, your nerves and nerve fibers get frayed.
In Parkinsonâs, certain brain cells start to die off. Your brain makes less and less of a chemical called dopamine that helps control your movement. As your levels dip, you lose more of this control.
Some genes may put you at risk for Parkinsonâs, especially as you age. Thereâs a small chance that people who are exposed to toxic chemicals like pesticides or weed killers can get it, too.
These symptoms are more common if you have MS. They not usually found in Parkinsonâs:
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What Is Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Symptoms can take years to develop, and most people live for many years with the disease. The symptoms caused by Parkinsons include an ongoing loss of motor control as well as a wide range of non-motor symptoms .
New Medications For Off Time
A number of new medications approved recently are designed to reduce OFF time. These medications fall into two major categories:
- Medications that lengthen the effect of a carbidopa/levodopa dose
- Medications that are used as needed if medication effects wear off
Well give specific examples below. In general, new medications that extend the length of a carbidopa/levodopa dose are used if OFF time is somewhat predictable and occurs prior to next dose. New medications that are used as needed are most beneficial when OFF time is not predictable.
New medications that lengthen the effect of a dose of carbidopa/levodopa
- Istradefylline is an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist which was approved in the US in 2019 as an add-on therapy to levodopa for treatment of OFF time in PD. Unlike many of the other medications, it has a novel mechanism of action and is the first medication in its class to be approved for PD. It acts on the adenosine receptor, which modulates the dopaminergic system, but is not directly dopaminergic. The drug was developed in Japan and underwent clinical trials both in Japan and in the US.
- Opicapone is a catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitor that is taken once a day. It was approved in the US in 2020 as an add-on therapy to levodopa for motor fluctuations.
New formulations of levodopa designed to be used as needed if medication effects wear off
Other medications used as needed if medication effects wear off
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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.
What Is Advanced Parkinsons Disease
Advanced Parkinsons disease is a late stage of Parkinsons disease that is marked by limited mobility. Medications are used to control Parkinsons in early stages. When these medications lose their ability to work effectively and symptoms progress, physicians classify it as advanced Parkinsons disease.
APD usually occurs after 10 years of living with Parkinsons, but can occur much later. Patients in this stage may require a wheelchair or other assistive devices, and they have a higher risk of falling, dementia, and other cognitive problems.
This article will discuss the symptoms, treatment, and prognosis for advanced Parkinsons disease.
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Testing For Parkinsons Disease
There is no lab or imaging test that is recommended or definitive for Parkinsons disease. However, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an imaging scan called the DaTscan. This technique allows doctors to see detailed pictures of the brains dopamine system.
A DaTscan involves an injection of a small amount of a radioactive drug and a machine called a single-photon emission computed tomography scanner, similar to an MRI.
The drug binds to dopamine transmitters in the brain, showing where in the brain dopaminergic neurons are.
The results of a DaTscan cant show that you have Parkinsons, but they can help your doctor confirm a diagnosis or rule out a Parkinsons mimic.
Link Between Parkinsons Disease And Als
Parkinsons disease and ALS are a lot more similar than you may think. The two neurological diseases share neurons that are highly sensitive to stress, misfolded proteins and reduced protein recycling, toxic proteins that spread from neuron to neuron, and neuroinflammation which is triggered by the immune system and aggravates the condition.
These commonalities between ALS and Parkinsons disease allow researchers to better hone in on more effective treatments for both diseases.
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Stooping Or Hunching Over
Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease .
What is normal?If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.
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.
Parkinsons disease typically progresses in five stages. In the first three stages, symptoms are mild to moderate and less limiting to daily life. These include:
- 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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Knowing That It Is Msa And Not Parkinsons Is Important
Over the years MSA Coalition Board Members have heard the frustration about a slow diagnosis after the initial diagnosis of Parkinsons.While MSA is fatal, knowing the correct diagnosis, is still important.
Multiple system atrophy affects multiple systems in the body.As a result, while there are not MSA specific treatments, treating the various symptoms from sleep disorders, urinary and bowel issues, blood pressure control, etc. can vastly improve quality of life. The earlier an MSA patient is diagnosed, the earlier doctors can establish a plan of action to improve symptoms that can be very disabling. Another factor is that Parkinsons medications typically stop working in MSA patients.
An early diagnosis also allows patients and their families to spend quality time together while they are still able.It also provides time to prepare for end-of-life issues, such as preparing wills and living wills.
Possible Link To Alzheimers
Though Alzheimers, Huntingtons, and Parkinsons are distinctly different diseases, some evidence has emerged that shows a common link between the three.
All three diseases have proteins within the cells that do not assemble properly. Though the molecular and cellular changes that occur in each disease vary greatly, this protein degradation has been shown to precede early clinical signs in each disease. This is promising news, as more studies are being done to determine whether this can either predict or prevent these neurodegenerative diseases.
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Important Points About The New Medications
With multiple new medications available for the treatment of PD, there is more hope than ever that Parkinsons symptoms can be successfully managed for many years. A few things to consider:
- For people whose symptoms are difficult to control, these new treatments are welcome additions to what was previously available and many people with PD have been using these new medications with significant benefit.
- On the other hand, many of the newly-approved medications have the same mechanisms of action as older medications so they are not breaking new ground in treating symptoms.
- In addition, for some people, the effect on symptoms may be mild or not substantial.
These caveats may mean that your physician has not suggested a medication change for you. It is also important to note that despite all the new medications, carbidopa/levodopa remains the most potent medication to treat the motor symptoms of PD.
If your doctor does choose to try one of the new options, there may be multiple paths that your doctor can take when contemplating a medication adjustment. Often trial and error is the only way to determine the best medication regimen for you, so you may need to practice some patience as you work together with your doctor to determine what works or doesnt work.
Parkinsonism Accompanying Other Conditions
Parkinsonian symptoms may also appear in patients with other, clearly distinct neurological disorders such as Wilson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinocerebellar ataxias, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Each of these disorders has specific features that help to distinguish them from PD.
MSA, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy are sometimes referred to as “Parkinson’s-plus” diseases because they have the symptoms of PD plus additional features.
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Who Gets Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsonâs disease, documented in 1817 by physician James Parkinson, is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimerâs disease. Estimates regarding the number of people in the United States with Parkinsonâs range from 500,000 to 1,500,000, with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases reported annually. No objective test for Parkinsonâs disease exists, so the misdiagnosis rate can be high, especially when a professional who doesnât regularly work with the disease makes the diagnosis.
What Causes The Condition
First described in 1917 by James Parkinson as the shaking palsy, PD is characterized by a loss of neurons in the substantia nigra portion of the brain. A buildup of the protein alpha-synuclein causes dopamine producing cells to fail and die. There is no known specific cause of PD but it is considered to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors just like PSP.
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Surgery And Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation is a treatment for Parkinsonâs disease that uses an implantable pacemaker-like device to deliver electrical pulses to parts of the brain involved in movement. The DBS system consists of leads precisely inserted into a specific brain target, the neurostimulator implanted in the chest, and extension wires that connect the leads to the neurostimulator. Though implantation of the system requires a neurosurgical procedure, the treatment itself consists of long-term electrical stimulation. Advantages of DBS include its ability to reduce the high doses of medications , its adjustability , and its reversibility DBS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for PD in 2002 and according to Medtronic , more than 80,000 patients have undergone DBS surgery worldwide.
Typical candidates are those who have motor fluctuations or periods of âoffâ time with troublesome symptoms alternating with periods of âonâ time with good symptom control, and also with possible periods of excessive movement .
Not all patients with Parkinsonâs disease are good candidates for treatment with DBS. Approximately 10â20% of patients considered for possible treatment with DBS include those:
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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Foster A Good Relationship
Lastly, maintaining your relationship and communication with the person with Parkinsonâs can be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of caregiving. As Parkinsonâs disease progresses, the roles change and the person with Parkinsonâs may go from being an independent head of the household to a very dependent person requiring a significant level of care. However, research shows that despite high levels of strain, caregivers with good quality relationships have reduced depression and better physical health. Remember, as a caregiver your service to your loved one is beyond measure in terms of love, depth of care, and concern.
More Information About Pd
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
American Parkinson Disease Association, Inc. : This web site provides information to support and teach people who are affected by Parkinsonâs disease, including caregivers. It also provides links to resources, such as support groups and exercise classes.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research: This web site provides information about its work to make sure government policies accelerate the development of new, improved therapies for Parkinson disease and about ways to increase quality of life for people with Parkinson disease and their families, including support groups and telemedicine.
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation : This web site describes Parkinson disease and its symptoms and provides tips for living with Parkinson disease and an opportunity for online community with other people who have Parkinson disease.
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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.