Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

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parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive and neurodegenerative disease. It worsens normal bodily functions like balance, movement, breathing, and heart function. As it advances, PD becomes increasingly disabling, making daily activities difficult or impossible. Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain. World Parkinson’s Day is celebrated on April 11th to increase the public awareness of this terrible disease.

FAST FACTS

  • An estimated 7 to 10 million people worldwide are living with PD.
  • Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.

Symptoms of PD

Diagnosing Parkinson’s requires a careful medical history and a physical examination to detect the symptoms of the disease.

Primary motor symptoms

  • Resting Tremor: Involuntary, rhythmic shaking of a limb, jaw, face, head or the entire body.
  • Bradykinesia: Slowness of movement causing difficulty with repetitive movements.
  • Rigidity: Stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck and trunk.
  • Postural instability: Impaired balance and coordination.

Secondary motor symptoms

  • Freezing: Hesitation before stepping forward.
  • Micrographia: Shrinkage in handwriting.
  • Mask-like expression: Decreased, unconscious facial movements.
  • Unwanted accelerations: Very quick movements.

Non-motor symptoms

  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness , rapid eye movement behavior disorder, vivid dreams, talking and moving during sleep, restless legs syndrome.
  • Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and irritability.
  • Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing up)
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Constipation
  • Bladder problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Excessive saliva
  • Urinary urgency, frequency and incontinence
  • Weight loss or gain

Causes of PD

Although majority of people do not have any specific known cause for the development of Parkinson’s but the few possible factors known to be associated with it are:

•   Familial occurrence, one or more close relatives suffering from the condition.

•   Increasing age, between middle to late years of life.

•   Pesticide exposure, to toxins which inhibit dopamine production.

•   Head injuries causing trauma-induced upper cervical damage.

•   Air pollution related to road traffic.

Management of PD

There is no cure or standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, but medication and therapy are used to treat its symptoms. Medications may help in managing problems with walking, movement and tremor. There are some surgical procedures like deep brain stimulation which are applied when medications aren’t enough to provide relief.

However, there are some lifestyle changes which can help in reduction of symptoms and make living with Parkinson’s disease easier.

  • Healthy Eating: Some foods can help in easing some of the symptoms. For example, eating foods high in fiber and drinking an adequate amount of fluids can help prevent constipation which is common in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Regular Physical Activity: Since PD causes a disturbance in balance and coordination, exercises can help with improving muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Your doctor will suggest you the exercises that work best for you. Regular physical activity can also help in reducing depression or anxiety.

Recognizing the symptoms, and understanding how they may affect the quality of life of the patient is a first step toward living well with Parkinson’s.

DID YOU KNOW?

According to some studies, caffeine consumption appears to be protective against Parkinson’s disease, though the exact mechanism is not clearly understood.

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SOURCES:

  1. PARKINSON’S DISEASE FOUNDATION. ACCESSED MARCH 30, 2016.
  2. MAYOCLINIC. ACCESSED MARCH 30, 2016.
  3. NATIONAL PARKINSON’S FOUNDATION. ACCESSED MARCH 30, 2016.
  4. NATIONAL HEALTH PORTAL. ACCESSED MARCH 31, 2016.

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