What is Parkinson’s Disease (PD)?
Parkinson’s disease is a movement ailment that develops over time. Parkinson’s disease appears when nerve cells in the basal ganglia, a region of the brain that controls movement, become damaged or die.
Normally, these nerve cells, or neurons, create dopamine, a key brain neurotransmitter, that helps control muscle movement. When neurons die or become compromised, they create less dopamine, resulting in the disease’s movement issues. Scientists are still unsure what causes neurons to die.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are treatments available to help manage symptoms.
This article provides an overview of Parkinson’s disease, including its causes and treatment options. If you are affected by Parkinson’s disease or know someone who is, please consider this information as a resource to help you better understand this condition.
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Symptoms
Symptoms start gradually, often on one side of the body, and progress over time. They may include tremors, rigidity, slowed movement, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Parkinson’s disease can also cause problems with swallowing, chewing, and speaking.
Early symptoms of PD are often subtle and can be easily confused with other conditions. Other conditions that can have similar presentations to PD include arthritis, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, dystonia, depression, fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome, frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17, Huntington’s disease, idiopathic basal ganglia calcification, neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, obsessional slowness, psychogenic parkinsonism, and Wilson’s disease.
People may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory problems, and fatigue. Parkinson’s disease affects people of all ages, but it is most common in older adults.
Parkinson’s disease patients frequently acquire a parkinsonian gait, which involves a propensity to lean forward, take tiny, fast steps, and reduce swinging their arms. They may also find it difficult to start or maintain movement.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually begin on one side of the body, or in one limb on one side. As the illness progresses, it affects both sides. However, one side’s symptoms may be more severe than the other.
Sleep disorders are not uncommon in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Some of these individuals may experience insomnia or trouble staying asleep, as well as constipation and loss of smell.
Parkinson’s can also lead to changes in cognitive function, including problems with memory, attention, and executive function (the ability to plan and accomplish tasks). While the exact cause of these cognitive changes is unknown, experts believe that they may be due to a combination of Parkinson’s-related damage to the brain and the effects of stress and depression.
Some Parkinson’s medications may also contribute to cognitive changes, although more research is needed to confirm this. For people with Parkinson’s, managing cognitive changes can be a challenge. However, there are some strategies that may help, such as staying socially active, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s: Challenges and Options
Parkinson’s disease is most commonly diagnosed based on a medical history and neurological examination. However, there are currently no blood or laboratory tests that can confirm the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. This can make diagnosis difficult, particularly in the early stages of the disease when symptoms may be less severe.
Secondary parkinsonism can be caused by stroke, certain drugs, or toxins, and must be evaluated during the visit. Parkinson-plus syndromes such as progressive supranuclear palsy and multiple system atrophy must also be considered and ruled out appropriately due to different treatments and disease progression.
Furthermore, other disorders can cause similar symptoms to Parkinson’s, so getting an accurate diagnosis is critical to ensure that patients receive the appropriate treatment.
Movement disorders experts are found on average to be 79.6% accurate at initial assessment and 83.9% accurate after follow-up examinations, according to the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Overall, 80.7% of PD diagnoses using the Brain Bank criteria are accurate.
CT scans of persons with Parkinson’s disease frequently appear normal. Magnetic resonance imaging has showed promise in discriminating between Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s disease plus. Other disorders that can be secondary causes of parkinsonism are also ruled out using CT and MRI scans.
DaTSCANs are only FDA approved to distinguish PD or Parkinsonian syndromes from essential tremors. Drug-induced Parkinsonism can be ruled out if dopamine-related activity in the basal ganglia is reduced. This finding is not entirely specific and can be seen with both PD and Parkinson-plus disorders.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of Parkinson’s disease, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve quality of life and help to manage symptoms.
Treatment options available for people with Parkinson’s
While there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, a combination of medication, surgery, and physical therapy can often alleviate symptoms.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it is critical to collaborate with a team of professionals to develop the appropriate treatment strategy.
Treatment options can help to improve symptoms and overall quality of life. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies can help with gait and voice disorders, tremors, and rigidity, and decline in mental functions.
A healthy diet is also important for supporting overall wellness. Exercises to strengthen muscles and improve balance, flexibility, and coordination can also be helpful. Massage therapy may reduce tension and yoga, or tai chi may increase stretching and flexibility.
There are many different treatment options available for people with Parkinson’s disease, so it is important to work with a healthcare team to find the best approach for everyone.
Levodopa is the primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Nerve cells use levodopa to produce dopamine, which replenishes the brain’s depleted supply. People typically use levodopa in conjunction with another drug known as carbidopa.
Parkinson’s disease patients should never stop taking levodopa without first consulting their doctor. Stopping the medicine suddenly might have major consequences, such as being unable to move or having trouble breathing. Some of the negative effects of levodopa therapy can be avoided or reduced with carbidopa.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be recommended by a doctor for persons with Parkinson’s disease who do not react well to treatments. The device uses electrodes to stimulate specific parts of the brain that control movement, potentially alleviating symptoms like tremors and slowness of movement.
A doctor inserts electrodes into a section of the brain and links them to a small electrical device implanted in the chest during a surgical procedure.
Prescriptions treat Parkinson’s disease include drugs that increase dopamine production and slow down the breakdown of dopamine by slowing down the enzymes that break down dopamine in the brain. The doctor may prescribe other medicines to help reduce involuntary movements, such as anticholinergic drugs or antiepileptic drugs.
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses, including Parkinson’s. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the person with PD and the family by providing relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of illnesses. It can help with physical symptoms, emotional factors like loss of function and jobs, depression, fear, and existential concerns.
How to Prevent Parkinson’s from developing
Exercise in middle age may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD). Aim for at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. Hiking, walking, jogging or running, swimming, or biking is great options to try and reduce your Parkinson’s risk.
Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells, and their build-up is thought to cause cell death. Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging cells. Getting rid of free radicals by eating foods with lots of antioxidants may help prevent Parkinson’s.
Some great sources of antioxidants include artichokes, kale, potatoes, berries, pears, apples, grapes, eggs, kidney beans, lentils, pecans, walnuts, dark chocolate, red wine, and fava beans. So, boost your antioxidant intake today and help ward off Parkinson’s disease.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and may lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also present in organ meats, sardines, and mackerel. Reading product labels can alert you to recommended daily values.
Be sure to eat lots of fresh, raw vegetables. Having low levels of B vitamin folate may increase your risk for Parkinson’s disease. Some of the best sources of folate are Spinach, Asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, and collard greens.
Mental health is a major worry for those with Parkinson’s disease. A person suffering from Parkinson’s disease needs to be willing to show strength and endurance to tackle the disease.
Support from family and friends is also important because a person with Parkinson’s might need constant motivation and encouragement from his external surroundings, especially if he is being treated for the disease at home.
Our website provides in-depth information about all aspects of this neurological disorder, from signs and symptoms to treatment options and coping strategies. We also have a team of experts who are available to answer any questions you may have about Parkinson’s disease.
Contact us if you need more information or support and keep checking our website for the latest news and updates on this condition.