5 Things to Know About Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a condition of the brain that affects bodily movement. There is a neurotransmitter called dopamine that’s in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that activate the different parts of the brain. The cells that produce dopamine in the brain break down in people with Parkinson’s disease. The result is that there is not enough dopamine to activate the parts of the brain that are involved in bodily movement.

The following are important things to know about Parkinson’s disease:

  1. The causes of Parkinson’s disease are not well known.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the deterioration of nerve cells in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra. These nerve cells are involved in the production of dopamine. Dopamine allows communication between the substantia nigra and another area of the brain, known as the corpus striatum. This communication is responsible for smooth and balanced muscle movement.

Why the cells break down in people with the illness is not known. However, there is evidence that the illness is inherited genetically. There is also some evidence that environmental toxins may be responsible for the illness. Toxins that may be involved include manganese, carbon monoxide, carbon disulfide, and some pesticides. It is also thought that oxidative stress may have a hand in why people get Parkinson’s disease.

  1. The early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are easy to miss.

The early signs of the illness are easy to overlook. This is particularly the case if they occur only from time to time. The following are early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease:

Small handwriting

A change in the size of your handwriting can be an early sign of the illness. People with the illness have difficulty controlling their movements because of changes in the brain. This can make performing fine motor skills difficult.

Tremor

Tremor is the most noticeable sign of the illness. Many times, the only person who notices it is the person who experiences it. Over time, the shaking will become worse and be noticeable to other people.

Sleep problems

The movements that characterize Parkinson’s can make sleep difficult. Even kicking, thrashing, and flailing of the arms can be an issue.

Stiffness and slow movement

While people in their older years ordinarily feel some stiffness when they get up in the morning, people with the illness have stiffness that does not go away as the day goes on. Stiffness and slow movement occur in the early stages of the illness. A person with the illness will notice jerkier motions and may develop a shuffling gait.

Changes in voice

The illness affects speech because it affects bodily movements of all kinds. In the early stages of the illness, the patient may speak at a lower volume than usual.

Masking

The illness can affect people’s natural facial expressions. Sometimes, they will appear to have a blank stare. This is called masking. They may have a rather serious look on their face even during a lighthearted conversation. They may also blink less often.

Posture

An early indicator of the illness may be a slouched posture. This posture comes as a result of loss of coordination and balance. This slouching typically does not go away with time.

  1. Symptoms of Parkinson’s progress steadily.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder affecting movement. In the early stages of the illness, some people will notice a sense of weakness, difficulty walking, and stiff muscles. Others may notice a tremor of the head or hands. The symptoms of Parkinson’s gradually get worse. The typical symptoms of the illness include:

  • Slowness of voluntary movements
  • Decreased facial expression
  • A shuffling gait
  • Difficulties with balance
  • Continuous “pill-rolling” motion of the thumb and forefinger
  • Stiffness in the trunk and extremities
  • Swallowing troubles
  • Lightheadedness or fainting when standing
  1. Treatments for Parkinson’s disease are pretty effective at controlling symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can many times be controlled for a long while with medication. Levedopa is the drug that doctors most often prescribe. The body metabolizes it to produce dopamine. MAO-B inhibitors are also used. They are used by themselves in the early stages of the illness and with other drugs as the illness progresses. Their action is to block the action of an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. Dopamine agonists are drugs that imitate dopamine’s activity in the brain. They can be used alone or combined with levodopa.

Neurologists and neurosurgeons have looked into different ways of grafting dopamine-producing cells in the brain. There is now research going on that attempts to do this with stem cells.

Another surgical technique creates lesions in a certain region of the brain that is involved with the illness. This procedure has been mostly replaced by something called deep brain stimulation. In this procedure, a wire is placed deep inside of the brain.

  1. Prognosis for Parkinson’s is good when treatments are used.

The illness is not fatal. However, it’s a degenerative disorder that usually develops until the patient is completely debilitated. The condition usually gets worse over a period of 15 years. If it is left untreated, then it will worsen over the years. When it is treated, life expectancy is normal to near normal.

Conclusion

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating condition that scientists do not yet fully understand. However, although there is no cure, there are treatments that can handle the symptoms of the illness. If you have some of the early symptoms of the illness, then you should consult with your physician so that you can start early treatment.

JPC-PROD / Shutterstock.com

JPC-PROD / Shutterstock.com

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