Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Parkinson’s disease
(PD) is a long-term, progressive nervous system disorder. It happens when nerve
cells in the brain that control movement begin to die, produce insufficient dopamine
(a brain chemical), and cause changes in how you move, feel, and act.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms start gradually, including muscle rigidity, tremors, stiffness or slowing of movement, and changes of the way you talk and walk. Over time, other symptoms develop, and some people will have dementia. Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medical and surgical treatments might significantly improve your symptoms.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation reports that PD affects about 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 4 million people worldwide. Each year, about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD in the U.S. solely.

Causes

The exact cause
of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors seem to be relevant.

  • low dopamine levels

Dopamine, a
neurotransmitter, helps to send messages to the part of the brain responsible
for controlling movement. When the brain cells that produce dopamine begin to
die, PD symptoms occur and worsen.

  • Low norepinephrine levels

Norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter, plays a key role to many automatic body functions. When the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine die, people with PD will also have nonmotor symptoms, such as fatigue and constipation

  • Genes

Specific genetic
mutations may lead to Parkinson’s disease in rare cases with corresponding
family history. And scientists suspect that a combination for genetic and
environmental factors may lead to the condition.

  • Environmental triggers.

Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk
of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.

  • Lewy bodies

Lewy bodies, clumps of protein in the
brain, are also linked with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Autoimmune factors

Researchers have found evidence of a possible genetic link between PD and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms

Parkinson’s common motor symptoms may
include:

  • Tremors or shaking in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and
    face
  • Rigidity or stiffness in any part of your body.
  • Trouble with movement
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Difficulty with speech and writing

Other nonmotor symptoms may include:

  • Poor sense of smell
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

Steps in diagnosis of Parkinson’s
disease include:

  • A review of your symptoms and medical history
  • A neurological and physical examination
  • A dopamine transporter (DAT) scan
  • Imaging tests such as MRI, CT, ultrasound of the brain, and PET scans
  • Autonomic tests and sphincter electromyography
  • Psychometric tests
  • Lab tests such as blood tests

Treatment

Currently, there’s no cure
for Parkinson’s disease, and the goal of treatment is to help relieve your
symptoms. These treatments include:

Medications

Three main types of medication are commonly used:

Surgical
procedures

This type of treatment is only suitable for some people. Deep
brain stimulation is the most common surgery offered to people with advanced
Parkinson’s disease.

Supportive
therapies

There are several therapies that can make living with
Parkinson’s disease easier.

  • Physiotherapy

A
physiotherapist can relieve your muscle stiffness and joint pain through
movement and exercise.

  • Occupational therapy

An
occupational therapist can identify difficulties in your daily
life – for example, dressing yourself or getting to the local shops.

  • Speech and language therapy

A
speech and language therapist can teach your speaking and swallowing exercises with
assistive technology.

  • Diet changes

There are many changes you can make in your diet, including increase the amount of fiber, salt, drink enough fluid, and eat small, frequent meals.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease

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