What is Parkinson’s Disease

 

What is Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a nervous system disorder that affects the dopaminergic or dopamine-producing neurons in the brain area known as substantia nigra. This condition causes these neurons to break down or die slowly. When neurons die, dopamine levels decrease, and it results in brain abnormalities and impaired movement.

Parkinson's disease (PD) isn't fatal, but the complications associated with it are serious. In fact, the complications from PD is the 14th cause of death in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Globally, there are about 10 million cases of Parkinson's disease.

What causes Parkinson’s disease

The abnormal deposits of a protein alpha-synuclein in the brain that are present in Lewy body dementia have been found to also exist in people with Parkinson's. Even now, scientists are still studying the relationship and impact of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia.

In most cases, Parkinson's happens randomly, so the chance of it being hereditary is very slim. Although remote, environmental triggers, such as exposure to toxins, may increase the risk.

Who is at risk

Men are 1.5 times at risk of Parkinson's disease than women. Furthermore, people aged 60 and older are also at more risk than people under 50. As a matter of fact, only 4 of 100 cases occur in individuals below 50.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Parkinson's vary depending on its stage. Mobility problems may begin in one limb or one side of the body before progressing on. There are three stages to Parkinson's: mild, moderate, and severe. The changes in the mild stage aren't easily noticeable. In the moderate stage, the person may be unable to do some tasks, and in the advanced or severe stage, serious disabilities start to happen.

  • Tremor and other movement-related concerns
  • Reduced facial expressions
  • Speech changes
  • Writing changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional changes and depression
  • Constipation
  • Swallowing problems
  • Rigid muscles
  • Bladder problems
  • Impaired balance and posture
  • Thinking difficulties and cognitive problems
  • Severe posture issues
  • Inability to perform daily activities
  • Limited mobility wherein wheelchair use becomes compulsory

Treatment

There’s no cure to reverse or slow Parkinson's disease, but it's still possible to live a quality life despite the condition. Medications, surgical treatment, and therapies can help relieve symptoms.

People take levodopa (L-dopa) to replenish the brain's dopamine supply, but it comes with side effects. Another medication, carbidopa, is taken with levodopa to reduce these side effects.

A surgical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) may be an option for those who don't respond to medications well.

Physical and occupational therapy can help improve physical strength and balance, while speech therapy can help fix speech problems.

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