Parkinson's Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mind It
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According to the US NIH, Parkinson's disease is a progressive central nervous system disorder that mainly affects the motor system.

The motor system is the part of the central nervous system that is involved with movement.

This condition affected nearly 6.2 million people globally resulting in 117,200 deaths in the year 2015.

The condition is more common in people above the age of 60, of which only 1 percent is affected.

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, it is more common in males than in females. When the condition is seen in people below the age of 50, it is termed as young-onset of Parkinson's disease.

Following the diagnosis, the average life expectancy of a person can span anywhere from 7 to 14 years. The disorder is chronic and worsens over time. Let's understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.


Parkinson's Disease: Causes 

According to the US NIH, the nerve cells of the substantianigra gradually breakdown and die in Parkinson's disease.

The substantianigra is the part of the brain where the chemical messenger in the brain dopamine is produced.

Dopamine is responsible for the smooth and coordinated muscle movement of the body.

In Parkinson's disease, dopamine levels are reduced. When this happens, it results in abnormal brain activity leading to symptoms associated with Parkison's disease.

According to the doctors at Mayo Clinic, the exact causes of the condition is unknown but several factors seem to play a role like:

  • Genetic mutations

  • History of exposure to certain toxins

  • History of head injury

  • The presence of Lewy bodies which are abnormal aggregate of proteins found in the brain of people with PD.

Parkinson's Disease: Risk Factors

According to the National Institute of Aging, risk factors for Parkinson's disease are:

  • Age of around 60 years or older

  • A family history of the condition

  • Gender- Men are more likely to get affected by the condition than women

  • Exposure to toxins found in herbicides or pesticides

Parkinson's Disease: Symptoms

The major motor problems associated with Parkinson's disease as mentioned by the National Institute of Aging are:

  • Tremors- a shaking that occurs at rest.

  • Slow movements or bradykinesia.

  • Muscle stiffness which may occur in part of the body.

  • Impaired posture and balance lead to frequent falls.

  • Cognitive disturbances such as problems with planning, inhibiting inappropriate actions, slowed cognitive processing speed.

  • Impulse control disorders including pathological gambling, binge-eating, compulsive sexual behaviour.

Other symptoms may include– writing changes, speech changes, decreased blinking and swallowing, reduced arm swinging while walking, depression, blank facial expression, anxiety, hallucinations or dillusions.
  • Oily skin and excess sweating.

  • Urinary incontinence.

  • Constipation.

  • Loss of smell.


Parkinson's Disease: Diagnosis

  • There is no specific test for Parkinson's disease. Diagnosis is made on the basis of medical history, symptoms, a physical exam and a neurological exam.

  • The doctor may suggest Photo Emission Tomography (PET) or single photon emission computerized tomography scan (SPECT) to measure dopamine-related activity in the brain as suggested by the doctors at Mayo Clinic.

  • Tests such as CT scans and MRI may be used to rule out other conditions.

Parkinson's Disease: Treatment 

There is no cure for the condition. Treatment options can help reduce or control the symptoms of the disease. According to the AANS, the treatment includes:

  • Medications may help manage movement and the tremor. These medicines serve as a substitute for, or increases dopamine concentration in the brain.

  • Dopamine agonists such as pramipexole, ropinirole, and rotigotine that depict dopamine effects in the brain.

  • Amantadine may be taken alone for a short term relief of symptoms of early or mild stage PD or it may be combined with Carbidopa-levodopa to control involuntary movement

  • The other treatment options may include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and writing therapy. You may be advised a few dietary changes to reduce the unwanted weight loss, constipation, high blood sugar levels, etc

(This article is for your general information only. Before trying out any remedy or treatment, FIT advises you to consult a qualified medical professional. )

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Topics:  Parkinson's Disease 

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