What Is Parkinson’s Disease Its A Movement Disorder
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain illness that affects the way you move. In more clinical terms, Parkinsons disease is a neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system.
Normally, there are cells in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the parts of your brain that control movement. When approximately 60-80% of the dopamine-producing brain cells are damaged, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear, and you may have trouble moving the way you want.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic illness and it slowly progresses over time. While there is no therapy or medicine that cures Parkinsons disease, there are good treatment options available that can help you live a full life.
How Will Parkinson’s Disease Affect Your Life
Finding out that you have a long-term, progressive disease can lead to a wide range of feelings. You may feel angry, afraid, sad, or worried about what lies ahead. It may help to keep a few things in mind:
- Usually this disease progresses slowly. Some people live for many years with only minor symptoms.
- Many people are able to keep working for years. As the disease gets worse, you may need to change how you work.
- It is important to take an active role in your health care. Find a doctor you trust and can work with.
- Depression is common in people who have Parkinson’s. If you feel very sad or hopeless, talk to your doctor or see a counselor.
- It can make a big difference to know that you’re not alone. Ask your doctor about Parkinson’s support groups, or look for online groups or message boards.
- Parkinson’s affects more than just the person who has it. It also affects your loved ones. Be sure to include them in your decisions.
Who Is Affected By Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease affects both men and women. Statistically, however, men have a slightly higher chance of developing the disease. The risk of developing Parkinsons disease also increases with age, with the average age of onset being 65 years old. Five to ten per cent of people develop the condition before the age of 40 years old. When symptoms appear in people aged 21-40, this is known as young-onset Parkinsons disease. Juvenile Parkinsons disease is the term used when symptoms appear before the age of 18 years old, although this is extremely rare.
To-date, no one knows exactly why people get Parkinsons disease, but viral infection or environmental toxins may play a role. People with a parent, sibling or child with Parkinsons disease, are twice as likely to get it as people in the general population.
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Treatment Of Parkinsons Disease
For many years, doctors, scientists, and researchers have been in constant search for the cure for Parkinsons disease. However, up to this time, there is no known cure for this neurological disorder. Patients would just sort to drug medications and treatments for this disease. Since Parkinsons disease is associated with the deficiency of dopamine, doctors would prescribe their patients to take levodopa or carbidopa, or the combination of the two. These two resembles the function of dopamine. However, these medications can cause undesirable side effects and may lose effectiveness in the long run.
Another approved medication of Parkinsons disease is the dopamine agonists. These include rotigotine, pramipexole , and ropinirole . Due to various involuntary movements of several parts of the body, Parkinsons disease patients are also encouraged to undergo physical therapy. This is done to lessen the involuntary movements of the body. For advanced Parkinsons disease, patients are advised to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery. Asian doctors also recommend Tai Chi. This is a Chinese martial art that involves slow flowing movements of the hands and legs. This may help the patients improve their balance and strength.
Living With Parkinson’s Disease
As Parkinson’s develops, a person who has it may slow down and won’t be able to move or talk quickly. Sometimes, speech therapy and occupational therapy are needed. This may sound silly, but someone who has Parkinson’s disease may need to learn how to fall down safely.
If getting dressed is hard for a person with Parkinson’s, clothing with Velcro and elastic can be easier to use than buttons and zippers. The person also might need to have railings installed around the house to prevent falls.
If you know someone who has Parkinson’s disease, you can help by being a good friend.
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How Is Parkinson’s Disease Treated
If a doctor thinks a person has Parkinson’s disease, there’s reason for hope. Medicine can be used to eliminate or improve the symptoms, like the body tremors. And some experts think that a cure may be found soon.
For now, a medicine called levodopa is often given to people who have Parkinson’s disease. Called “L-dopa,” this medicine increases the amount of dopamine in the body and has been shown to improve a person’s ability to walk and move around. Other drugs also help decrease and manage the symptoms by affecting dopamine levels. In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat it. The person would get anesthesia, a special kind of medicine to prevent pain during the operation.
What Are The Motor Symptoms Of Parkinsons
Parkinsons is officially classified as a movement disorder because it involves damage to the areas of the brain, nerves and muscles that influence the speed, quality, fluency and ease of movement. Motor symptoms are usually the most visible elements of Parkinsons. Motor symptoms of Parkinsons also respond well to Parkinsons medications.
Although motor symptoms of Parkinsons often get the most attention and treatment, researchers estimate motor symptoms dont actually appear in most people until around 6080% of the nerve cells in the brain that make dopamine have stopped working because of Parkinsons.
In this article, we will help you identify and learn about the various motor symptoms of Parkinsons so you can be proactive in the management of your symptoms.
The impacts of Parkinsons on movement are called motor symptoms.
What Types Of Tremors Should I Watch For Before I Visit The Neurologist
Many types of involuntary movements are often confused with parkinsonian tremors. While these may not be related to your disease or treatment, they can sometimes be direct indicators of your medications effectiveness.
For example, tremors in one leg when it is in a particular position with the heel lightly resting on the ground affect the whole population and are not specific to Parkinsons disease.
On the other hand, exaggerated, chaotic and fluid movements, which sometimes resemble dance moves, are dyskinetic movements. These are not repetitive movements and do not have a specific pattern. They are caused by an overdosage of levodopa. They typically start 30 minutes to one hour after taking the drug and their intensity fluctuates during the overdose period.
As for cramps in toes or feet, these usually occur at night or in the morning and indicate insufficient levodopa dosage. These are abnormal muscle contractions that induce often painful abnormal positions. These movements usually begin several hours after taking medication and increase until the next medication dose takes effect.
Diagnosis And Management Of Parkinsons Disease
There are no diagnostic tests for Parkinsons. X-rays, scans and blood tests may be used to rule out other conditions. For this reason, getting a diagnosis of Parkinsons may take some time.
No two people with Parkinsons disease will have exactly the same symptoms or treatment. Your doctor or neurologist can help you decide which treatments to use.
People can manage their Parkinsons disease symptoms through:
- seeing a Doctor who specialises in Parkinsons
- multidisciplinary therapy provided for example, by nurses, allied health professionals and counsellors
- deep brain stimulation surgery .
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What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make To Ease Parkinsons Symptoms
Exercise: Exercise helps improve muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and tremor. It is also strongly believed to improve memory, thinking and reduce the risk of falls and decrease anxiety and depression. One study in persons with Parkinsons disease showed that 2.5 hours of exercise per week resulted in improved ability to move and a slower decline in quality of life compared to those who didnt exercise or didnt start until later in the course of their disease. Some exercises to consider include strengthening or resistance training, stretching exercises or aerobics . All types of exercise are helpful.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet: This is not only good for your general health but can ease some of the non-movement related symptoms of Parkinsons, such as constipation. Eating foods high in fiber in particular can relieve constipation. The Mediterranean diet is one example of a healthy diet.
Preventing falls and maintaining balance: Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s. While you can do many things to reduce your risk of falling, the two most important are: 1) to work with your doctor to ensure that your treatments whether medicines or deep brain stimulation are optimal and 2) to consult with a physical therapist who can assess your walking and balance. The physical therapist is the expert when it comes to recommending assistive devices or exercise to improve safety and preventing falls.
Tremor In Other Conditions
While tremor is a common symptom of Parkinsons, it can also be a symptom of other conditions, most notably essential tremor. The main difference between Parkinsons tremor and most other types of tremor is that in Parkinsons resting tremor is most common. Other conditions are usually characterized by action tremor, which tends to lessen at rest and increase when youre doing something, like trying to make a phone call or take a drink.
Tremors of the head and voice are also common in essential tremor but rare in Parkinsons.
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Treatment Options For Early Onset Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons treatment aims to slow the diseases progression. Medication treatment options may include the following:
- Levodopa is a chemical thats converted to dopamine in the brain. People with early onset Parkinsons may experience more negative side effects, such as involuntary movements.
- MAO-B inhibitors can help reduce the breakdown of dopamine in the brain.
- Catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors can help extend Levodopas effects on the brain.
- Anticholinergics can help reduce tremors.
- Amantadine may be used to improve muscle control and relieve stiffness.
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.
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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.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Parkinsonism
No single test exists for doctors to diagnose Parkinsonism.
A doctor will start by taking a persons health history and review their current symptoms. They will ask for a medication list to determine if any medicines could be causing the symptoms.
A doctor will likely also order blood testing to check for underlying potential causes, such as thyroid or liver problems. A doctor will also order imaging scans to examine the brain and body for other causes, such as a brain tumor.
Doctors can perform a test that tracks the movement of dopamine in the brain. This is known as the DaT-SPECT test.
The test uses radioactive markers designed to track dopamine in the brain. This allows a doctor to watch the release of dopamine in a persons brain and identify the areas of the brain that do or do not receive it.
Because Parkinsonism does not respond to typical treatments and can have a variety of symptoms, doctors can have difficulty coming to a quick diagnosis. It may take time for doctors to rule out other conditions and begin to make treatment recommendations.
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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
How Many People Does Parkinsons Disease Affect
Parkinsons disease affects 1 in every 500 people in Canada. Over 100,000 Canadians are living with Parkinsons today and approximately 6,600 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year in Canada . Most are diagnosed over the age of 60 however, at least 10% of the Parkinsons population develops symptoms before the age of 50. Approximately four million people worldwide are living with the condition.
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Mood And Mental Problems
- Deal with depression. If you are feeling sad or depressed, ask a friend or family member for help. If these feelings don’t go away, or if they get worse, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to suggest someone for you to talk to. Or your doctor may give you medicine that will help.
- Deal with dementia. Dementia is common late in Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms may include confusion and memory loss. If you notice that you are confused a lot or have trouble thinking clearly, talk to your doctor. There are medicines that can help dementia in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Reduce Sense Of Smell
Most people with Parkinsons have a reduced sense of smell, which is often ignored by doctors at the time of diagnosis.
In fact, this problem appears several years before the onset of motor symptoms and can be one of the early warning signs of Parkinsons.
While it is not clear why the loss of smell appears in Parkinsons, researchers have increasingly realized that there is a strong connection between the two. They have found that abnormal changes occur in part of the brain responsible for the sense of smell.
What Is The Outlook For Persons With Parkinsons Disease
Although there is no cure or absolute evidence of ways to prevent Parkinsons disease, scientists are working hard to learn more about the disease and find innovative ways to better manage it, prevent it from progressing and ultimately curing it.
Currently, you and your healthcare teams efforts are focused on medical management of your symptoms along with general health and lifestyle improvement recommendations . By identifying individual symptoms and adjusting the course of action based on changes in symptoms, most people with Parkinsons disease can live fulfilling lives.
The future is hopeful. Some of the research underway includes:
- Using stem cells to produce new neurons, which would produce dopamine.
- Producing a dopamine-producing enzyme that is delivered to a gene in the brain that controls movement.
- Using a naturally occurring human protein glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor, GDNF to protect dopamine-releasing nerve cells.
Many other investigations are underway too. Much has been learned, much progress has been made and additional discoveries are likely to come.