The focus is on Parkinson’s disease (commonly known just as “Parkinson’s”) on the 11th of April, 2022. There is much still to learn about this debilitating disease. It is a condition of the nervous system that causes movement problems. It starts off with very subtle symptoms and progresses slowly as you age.
The classic symptom that everyone knows is severe trembling but it has a wide range of problems. Symptoms include:
Tremor: It usually begins in a limb. The hand or fingers are a common sight. There is something known as a pill-rolling tremor–when you rub your thumb and forefinger back and forth. Your hand may tremble when it’s at rest.
Slowed movement (bradykinesia): As it progresses Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement. It makes even simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your stride may change with steps becoming shorter and you may drag your feet as you try to walk.
Rigid muscles: This may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
Impaired posture and balance: You can have a stooped posture and difficulty with balance.
Loss of automatic movements: These include blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
Speech changes: You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may lose its normal inflection and become more of a monotone.
Writing changes: It will likely become difficult to write with writing becoming smaller.
The mechanism of the disease itself is the break down and death of nerve cells (neurons). Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons producing a chemical messenger in your brain—dopamine. When dopamine decreases it results in abnormal brain activity.
The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors appear to play a role, including:
Genes. As with many ailments researchers have identified specific genetic mutation that can cause the disease. However, this is actually quite uncommon.
Environmental triggers: It appears that exposure to certain toxins or other environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease. The risk is small, though.
Risk factors include advanced age and sex (men are likely to develop the disease)
Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:
- The presence of Lewy bodies: Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease.
- Alpha-synuclein found within Lewy bodies: Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein).
There is a wide range of other problems caused by Parkinson’s:
- Thinking difficulties
- Depression and emotional changes
- Swallowing problems
- Chewing and eating problems
- Sleep problems and sleep disorders
- Bladder problems
You may also experience:
- Blood pressure changes
- Smell dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but symptoms can be managed with treatment, particularly in the early stages:
- Medications (such as carbidopa, levodopa, dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors, MAO B inhibitors, amantadine, and anticholinergics)
- Physical therapy and exercises
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Doctors may advise deep brain stimulation surgery for advanced PD. The procedure involves surgically implanting electrodes into a specific part of the brain. A generator is implanted near the collarbone to send electrical pulses to the brain through the electrodes.
- Another surgical procedure involves inserting a tube in the small intestine to deliver a gel formulation of carbidopa/levodopa (Duopa™).