PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

PARKINSON’S DISEASE

In this you are going to learn about Parkinson’s Disease. It covers all the aspects on how this disease develops, its causes, symptoms and possible cure and treatment methods. 

PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

Parkinson’s disease is a widespread disease that is mostly observed in aged people. The condition occurs due to the lack of a chemical “Dopamine” produced by the brain. The chemical works as a neurotransmitter to send stimuli to the brain.

 Dopamine plays a part in controlling the movement of the body by sending signals to the brain. In Parkinson’s disease, the neurons that produce Dopamine are affected. Hence, this hinders the production of Dopamine.

The nerve cells producing Dopamine die or get damaged, reducing their performance and causing a severe lack in dopamine production. Therefore the people affected by this disease face difficulty in carrying out basic body movements and experience tremors, rigid muscles, unusual gait, and speech problems. 

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE

In the initial stages of the disease, the symptoms are barely noticeable as a slight tremor may occur. However, the symptoms keep progressing over time.

Following are some common symptoms in most patients: 

  • Severe or minor tremors described like pill-rolling, involuntary movements of body parts like arms, hands, and legs.
  • Crippled movement and balance
  • Muscle rigidity and stiffness
  • Difficulty in instant responses has decreased reflex actions, lesser facial expressions, and decreased mental activeness.
  • The loss in movement also causes slow movement of involuntary actions like an eye blinking.
  • Other voluntary actions are also affected. They become drastically slow or impaired, like chewing, swallowing, which can cause uncontrollable drooling.
  • Muscle stiffness makes body posture diffracted, such as bent elbows and knees.
  • Some secondary symptoms may involve dementia and depression
  • Bradykinesia

Bradykinesia is one of the most evident symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Tremors, unexplained movements, and loss of balance could be counted in as Bradykinesia, but they do not completely define it.

The name of the symptom itself includes the term kinesia, which is related to “akinesia,” which means movement. Hence the symptom is described as the slowness or difficulty in the movement of the body.  

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease:

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown for most patients. In medical terms, the disease occurs when there is a destruction of dopaminergic neurons (neurons producing Dopamine) in a specific part of the brain.  I.e., Substantia Nigra with a consequent reduction of dopamine actions which is involved in motor ( balance) control. 

PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

The damage of the nerve cells is not a process of days. It takes several years for such a sensitive part of the brain to get damaged. Hence the disease symptoms start to surface only when almost 80% of the nerve cells are damaged.

That is why only aged people are usually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms and effects of this disease vary even amongst older people. .Unfortunately, the condition has no permanent or a complete cure to itself.

However, the symptoms generated through this disease are treated well with different therapies and medication.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO PARKINSON’S 

The exact reason why Parkinson’s disease reaches such a deteriorated state is unknown.  However, certain environmental and genetic factors are considered to be an aid for the initiation of the neurotic damage.

Genetic Mutation:

Many such disorders occur due to genetic mutations, but no gene mutation has been identified to cause Parkinson’s disease. There is some genetic mutation that could be somehow responsible for the condition. Parkinson’s genes (GBA, LRRK2, PRKN, SNCA) increase the chances of a person to suffer from this disease.

Heredity:

If a genetic mutation runs in a particular family, then there is an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in the coming generations.   However, this will be small because it is rare for Parkinson’s to be inherited.

Environmental factors:

Some of the environmental factors could also be a reason for Parkinson’s disease, but the factors on which this disease manifests are still not specified. Following are some of

The reasons that are considered to cause Parkinson’s disease:

Exposure to herbicides and pesticides: 

People who are readily subjected to herbicides and pesticides are prone to get attacked by this disease.  Hence, maintaining a safe distance is recommended to people living close to farming fields. Also, all the vegetables and fruits are recommended to be washed very well with clean water to wash off any residues of such harmful sprays.

Head injury:

A severe injury that reaches the brain and hinders the consciousness can be an added risk of Parkinson’s disease over a period of time.

Exposure to metals:

People working in mines or nearby are exposed to metals on a daily basis. Various metals could be a cause of Parkinson’s disease.  However, the long term effect of this metal on the brain is not measurable, and the result of the studies of metal causing Parkinson’s disease has been inconsistent.

Aging:

Aging is regarded as the leading factor for developing Parkinson’s disease. Due to this, it is believed that as a person gets older, cells become a little weaker, and hence they become an easy target for damage. That is why Parkinson’s is found in older people.

WHO IS MORE PRONE TO GET PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

Gender:

Parkinson’s is more common in men than in women.

Age:

Younger people are not likely to catch this disease because the neurotic damage process is prolonged. Therefore,  the disease is found mostly in older or middle-aged people. 

PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

Heredity:

A person with mutated genes or a higher number of people in the family who have Parkinson’s disease might have a stronger chance of getting this disease than a person who has fewer people with Parkinson’s disease in the family.

STAGES OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE:

Although Parkinson’s disease is common in aging people as the factors causing this disease are not consistent. Thus, it is not evident that every person suffering from this disease will have the same type of Parkinson’s or the same symptoms and intensity.

The symptoms and signs vary from person to person. This is why the cure to this disease is still unidentified because the source of this disease is not consistent, and neither are the symptoms.

But as this disease is progressive over time, physicians have specified five different stages of this disease classified according to the symptoms, intensity, and effects. These stages are known as Hoehn and Yahr Scale. This scale is used to diagnose the stage of Parkinson’s disease.

STAGE 1:

Stage one of the Parkinson’s usually goes unnoticed because of the mild symptoms in this stage.  Therefore, it is restricted to only one side of the body that is generally unnoticeable. Symptoms could include mild tremors in one hand and slight muscle stiffness, which most people confuse as a muscle spasm or a regular body pain. General physicians also struggle to diagnose the disease during this stage as there is a risk of causing it to progress even further.

STAGE 2:

In phase two of Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms are clearer and noticeable but still are mild in intensity. The symptoms in this stage could include rapid tremors, impaired movements of both sides of the body, mild imbalance, muscle rigidity, reduced blinking of eyes, change in the speech and tone, loss of facial expressions, a crooked and bent posture of the body with bent elbows and knees and slow mobility. The diagnosis of Parkinson’s at this stage is relatively easy and could be easily confirmed. However, if the first stage of this disease was missed, then all these symptoms could be considered as a drawback of aging and weakness. If the tremors are persistent, only then a physician could differentiate in Parkinson’s and aging.

STAGE 3:

Stage three of Parkinson’s is also considered as the mid-stage of this disease. The primary symptom of this stage is Bradykinesia, i.e., slow movement and loss of balance. In this stage, the reflex actions and other voluntary movements are impaired. Hence, falling is more rapid in this stage because the movement and stimulus to balance the body are hindered in this stage, and dopamine production is also lowered to a greater extent. As all the symptoms are visible at this stage; thus, the diagnosis of the disease is very easy. But the most differentiating factor of this stage is that even with the presence of all the symptoms of Parkinson’s, an individual is still able to be independent and carry out daily chores by himself.

STAGE 4:

The only difference between stage 3 and stage 4 is that the sufferer becomes dependent on a helper to perform daily tasks but still manages to walk, not normally but impaired and unusual. 

STAGE 5:

Stage five of Parkinson’s is the most advanced stage where the person becomes dependent on the helper. They cannot even rise from a chair by themselves, and their balance is compromised. At this stage, the patient may also experience dementia, hallucinations, and delusions.

Although it is observed that this disease is progressive over time, it doesn’t need to do every time with each individual. Continuous treatment helps to keep the disease from prevailing and reducing the symptoms to a great extent. Thus the early diagnosis of this symptom can be very helpful, and a person might be able to live independently with the help of treatments.

TREATMENT:

Parkinson’s disease has no permanent cure, but different treatments and medications can help from the illness from prevailing and controlling the symptoms drastically. In the worst cases, surgery is also advised. 

Mostly aerobic exercises and lifestyle changes are advised by physicians to improve body posture and reduce the symptoms and risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Medicine:

There are several dosages given to the patients, which either act as Dopamine or increases the production of Dopamine, hence improving the stability in the body. The most effective therapy is Levodopa, which converts into Dopamine and helps in body balance. However, prolonged use of this can cause adverse effects like not a better response once the body gets used to it, painful cramps, and involuntary movement.

In earlier stages, substances that act the same as Dopamine or which reduces the breakdown of Dopamine (monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitors) are advised to the patient. They can be very effective for motor responses inpatient. Side effects of this dosage could be constipation, dizziness, nausea, and hallucinations.

For the advanced stage of the disease, deep brain stimulation is advised. It is a surgery that includes electrodes planted to stimulate the brain for movement, and in other operations, other areas causing this disease are destroyed.

Some Helpful Resources

  1. A Parkinson’s Primer: An Indispensable Guide to Parkinson’s Disease for Patients and Their Families
  2. Delay the Disease-Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease 2nd Edition
  3. The New Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Book: Partnering with Your Doctor To Get the Most from Your Medications
  4. Everything You Need To Know About Parkinson’s Disease
  5. Reverse Parkinson’s Disease
  6. Understanding Parkinson’s Disease: A Self-Help Guide
PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

CONCLUSION:

Although this disease has no proper cure, life becomes manageable, and with the constant support of loved ones, one can live confidently and independently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is Parkinson’s disease hereditary?

Yes Parkinson’s disease does have a hereditary component because of certain genetic mutations. However, the genetic causes are substantially rare and only about 15% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may have a genetic cause. 

Q2. What is the life expectancy for a person with Parkinson’s disease?

The average life expectancy for a person suffering with Parkinson’s disease is about ten to twenty years (after the diagnosis). 

Q3. What are early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease?

Some of the early warning symptoms or signs of Parkinson’s disease include tremor in hand, finger or foot; limb stiffness, rigidity in facial expressions, stooping posture, cramped or changed writing style and uncontrollable movements during sleep. 

Q4. What do Parkinson’s patients usually die from?

Parkinson’s patients usually die from pneumonia infection that may substantially impair the ability of parkinson’s patient to swallow. Thus, resulting in aspiration of liquid or solids to their lungs that results in aspiration pneumonia and is fatal. 

Q5. Is Parkinson’s Disease painful?

Yes parkinson’s disease is painful and pain is one of the most common symptoms of this ailment. As an estimate, about 75% of individuals suffer from some form of pain during this ailment. 

Q6. Do all Parkinson’s patients develop dementia?

No, all patients of Parkinson’s disease may not suffer from dementia or cognitive deficits. 

References: 

  1. Understanding Parkinson’s.
  2. What Is Parkinson’s disease
  3. What are the five stages of Parkinson’s disease?
  4. What are early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease?
  5. Do Parkinson’s patients sleep a lot?
  6. Is Parkinson’s painful?

PARKINSON’S DISEASE (A Comprehensive Guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

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