Parkinson’s disease

UPDATED ON: 16 Apr 2024, 18:45 PM
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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) causes degeneration of nerve cells, leading to a deficiency of dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter facilitating body movement. This deficiency can bring about challenges in walking, speaking, and executing basic body movements, thereby leading Parkinson’s disease. Learn all about this disorder.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder impacting the nervous system and bodily functions controlled by nerve signals. It occurs when nerve cells in the brain gradually break down or die, resulting in a deficiency of dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter essential for regulating body movement. This deficiency can cause involuntary movements like tremors, shaking, stiffness, and challenges with balance and coordination. Initially, symptoms may be mild and develop slowly, but PD tends to worsen with time. Currently, no cure, therapy and medication is available to alleviate symptoms.

Causes of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the brain crucial for controlling bodily movement. These cells normally produce dopamine, a vital chemical for smooth movement. As dopamine levels decline, symptoms worsen gradually. Some contributing factors include:

1. Genes

The exact cause of PD is unknown, but people with a family history of this disease are at higher risk of developing it.

2. Environmental triggers

Exposure to toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals induces oxidative stress, inflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain. This may increase the risk of it.

3. Lewy bodies

People with PD may also have clumps of protein known as alpha-synuclein, or Lewy bodies, in their brains. This can cause a loss of nerve cells, leading to changes in movement, thinking, behaviour, and mood. While Lewy body dementia is different from Parkinson’s Disease, people may experience both conditions at a time due to similar symptoms

4. Low norepinephrine levels

Parkinson’s disease might also involve damage to the nerve endings responsible for generating another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, which is crucial for regulating blood circulation and other bodily functions. Reduced norepinephrine levels in Parkinson’s disease could heighten the likelihood of experiencing various symptoms, both motor and non-motor, including stiffness, tremors, anxiety, dementia, and depression.

5. Autoimmune factors

A potential genetic association between Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis was found by scientists in a study published in JAMA Neurology in 2017.

6. Other causes

Advancing age is a significant risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Apart from this, traumatic brain injuries may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, potentially causing inflammation and neuronal damage.

Key Facts About Parkinson’s disease

Major Symptoms
  • Tremors
  • Involuntary movements
  • Trouble walking
  • Change in speech and voice
  • Mental health problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Balance problems
Necessary Health Tests
  • Blood test
  • Imaging test
  • PET scan
  • Genetic testing
  • Regular exercise
  • Managing stress
  • Healthy diet
  • Medications such as dopamine agonists
  • Therapy

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your facial expression may change. Simple movements like swinging your arms while walking might become challenging, and speech may become softer or slurred. PD can be different for everyone. It may worsen as your condition progresses over time. In the later stages, it can affect your brain function, causing dementia-like symptoms and depression.

PD causes motor symptoms, which include:

  • Bradykinesia or slowed movement
  • Tremors in the hands, arms, or legs
  • Involuntary movement
  • Muscle rigidity (stiffness and difficulty with movement)
  • Trouble walking
  • Balance problem
  • Changes in speech and voice

Non-motor symptoms include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Dementia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Pain

While Parkinson’s symptoms progress gradually, these symptoms can cause trouble in walking, talking, and doing simple and basic tasks, which can significantly impact daily life.

When to see a doctor?

It is essential to consult a doctor if you notice persistent symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, or difficulty with movement, as these could indicate Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, if you are not able to sleep and are experiencing mental health problems, immediately consult a doctor.

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease typically involves a combination of a medical history review, physical examination, and various tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

1. Blood test

Blood tests may be conducted to check for certain biomarkers associated with Parkinson’s, although there is no definitive blood test for diagnosis.

2. Imaging test

Imaging tests such as CT scans and MRI scans can help detect any structural abnormalities in the brain, ruling out other causes of symptoms.

3. PET scan

Positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which measure brain activity, can also aid in diagnosis by highlighting areas of decreased dopamine production, a hallmark of Parkinson’s.

4. Genetic testing

Genetic testing may be considered in cases where there is a family history of the disease or when early-onset Parkinson’s is suspected. Certain genetic mutations have been linked to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s, although most cases are sporadic.

While there is no single definitive test for Parkinson’s, these tests may help diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment of Parkinson’s disease

Treatment for Parkinson’s disease can help relieve symptoms and maintain your qualiyt of life.

1. Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, can help improve balance, flexibility, and overall mobility. Apart from staying active, following a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can provide essential nutrients and support overall health. Additionally, you also need to focus on managing stress levels and keeping your sleep cycle healthy.

2. Medications

Medications are often prescribed to help control the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine agonists, such as pramipexole or ropinirole, mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain, helping to alleviate stiffness and tremors. Levodopa, combined with carbidopa, is another common medication that helps replenish dopamine levels in the brain, improving movement and reducing symptoms.

3. Therapy

In addition to medications, various therapies can help in treatment and improve the quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Therapies such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy can help improve mobility, balance, and strength. Moreover, they can help improve your speech.

Parkinson’s disease Related FAQs

Is Parkinson's disease contagious?

No, Parkinson's disease cannot be transmitted from person-to-person as it is not contagious. It is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, rather than exposure to any infectious agents.

Can you recover from Parkinson's disease?

Currently, there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. However, various treatments and therapies can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These may include medication, surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

Who is at risk for Parkinson's?

While anyone can develop Parkinson's disease, certain factors may increase the risk, including age above 60, family history, any head injury, and exposure to certain toxins.

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