Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms & Treatment
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a type of neurological disorder that damages dopamine-producing (dopaminergic) nerve cells in the substantia nigra. As these cells gradually die, so do the levels of dopamine When the amount of dopamine drops from 60-80%, patients will start noticing the first symptoms.
Often, those with Parkinson’s are affected by mild tremors, slower movements, muscle stiffness, and slurred speech. As the disease progresses over time, more serious symptoms may rise up, and the patient’s life quality will go down.
Parkinson’s disease facts
According to the US’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Parkinson’s and its complications rank as the 14th most common cause of death in the country. On the other hand, the National Institute of Health estimates that more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year.
Despite not being a fatal disease, Parkinson’s can drastically change one’s life – in a negative way. After 10 years, patients will generally suffer from a major health issue such as dementia and physical disabilities.
Signs & Symptoms
What are Parkinson’s disease symptoms?
Most of the time, Parkinson’s disease progresses pretty slowly. At first, patients may notice a few tremors in their hands/ fingers, muscle tension, and difficulty moving. Over time, these symptoms will become worse.
Generally, the common signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include the following:
- Slowed involuntary movements (bradykinesia). These include walking, standing up, getting out of bed, etc.
- Changes in speech, handwriting, and smelling capability (anosmia).
- Pill-rolling tremor, which refers to the act of rubbing the finger and thumb backward and forward.
- Muscle stiffness.
- Less facial expression.
- Lack of balance and coordination.
- Difficulty moving, swallowing and blinking.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by the breakdown of dopaminergic neurons in the brain. Normally, dopamine acts as a chemical messenger – it transmits messages to and from the brain. As the levels of dopamine drop down, the brain will no longer be able to function properly, which then results in the above-mentioned symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Various factors are accountable for the loss of dopamine cells in Parkinson’s:
- Genes. Certain genetic mutations are believed to potentially increase the risk of Parkinson’s. Some of the genes commonly associated with the condition include Glucocerebrosidase (GBA), LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2), PARK2 (parkin), etc.
- Environment. Toxins such as herbicides, pesticides, and other environmental factors can make one more susceptible to Parkinson’s.
- Lewy bodies. The presence of such proteins in the brain is a possible cause of Parkinson’s.
Generally, Parkinson’s is more commonly found among men than women. In addition, those who are over 60 years old are more likely to be victims of the disease.
Is Parkinson’s disease hereditary?
Scientists believe that Parkinson’s stems from a combination of genetic and environmental causes. In some cases, genetic mutations may contribute to the risk of Parkinson’s. However, whether one gets affected due to family history is hard to determine.
Although Parkinson’s disease can be hereditary, the likelihood of that happening is pretty rare. In fact, the USA’s National Institute of Health estimates that only 15% of people with Parkinson’s have a relative that suffers from the disease.
At its initial stage, Parkinson’s generally does not affect the patient’s life too much. However, without proper treatment, more serious complications may arise, including:
- Impaired cognitive functions (dementia);
- Mood swings;
- Lack of motivation;
- Difficulty eating/ swallowing;
- Sleep disturbance;
- Loss of bladder control;
- Blood pressure drop;
- Sexual dysfunction.
- A tendency to fall.
- Development of blood clots.
- Lung infection.
According to PubMed Central, Parkinson’s disease is capable of reducing one’s life expectancy. In a study that involves 140,000 people with Parkinson’s, 64% of them died within 6 years.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Parkinson’s disease diagnosis
The diagnosis of Parkinson’s is hard to perform due to the disease’s similarity with other conditions. To identify if you have Parkinson’s, the doctor may request a dopamine transporter (DAT) scan. On the other hand, additional examinations such as blood tests, imaging tests (MRI, CT, PET scans) may also be necessary.
Previously, no effective cure was available for Parkinson’s disease. Instead, most treatments focused on alleviating the symptoms and maintaining patients’ life quality. The most common treatment methods include:
- Medications. Drugs like Levodopa can aid in the production of dopamine, hence partially easing the effects of Parkinson’s. On the other hand, medicines such as dopamine agonists can simulate the effects of dopamine in the brain.
- Surgery. Deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS) is a viable approach in more serious cases. This procedure involves the implantation of electrodes into the brain. These devices act to send electrical impulses to the brain, which can help ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
With recent advances in regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy has emerged as a new, yet promising solution to Parkinson’s disease. Based on these cell’s unique regenerative properties, stem cell treatment can help reverse the loss of dopaminergic neurons, which is the main cause of the condition. This is something that conventional methods have been unable to achieve.
Learn how stem cell treatment works for Parkinson’s disease here. If you are interested in this treatment, contact GO.CARE via phone or email for a FREE consultation.
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Everything You Want to Know About Parkinson’s Disease. http://www.healthline.com/health/parkinsons. Accessed on November 4, 2019.
Parkinson’s disease. http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/. Accessed on November 4, 2019.
Parkinson’s disease – Symptoms and causes. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/basics/definition/con-20028488. Accessed on November 4, 2019.
Parkinson’s disease – NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/parkinsons-disease/. Accessed on November 4, 2019.
Better Lives. Together. – Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons. Accessed on November 4, 2019.