This post by daily human care is all about Parkinson’s disease, it’s causes, symptoms and it’s treatment options.
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Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder. It results from the loss of brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose Parkinson’s disease by taking a medical history and physical exam. Your provider will ask questions about non-motor symptoms, like depression, sleep problems and trouble smelling or swallowing.
About 10 to 20 percent of Parkinson’s cases are linked to a genetic cause. Scientists think the remaining cases are caused by a combination of factors, including environmental exposure to toxins and pesticides and aging.
In Parkinson’s disease, nerve cells in the basal ganglia area of the brain become damaged and start to die. These cells make a natural dopamine substance, which helps control movement and coordination. The brain can’t produce enough dopamine when these cells die to function normally. This causes the movement problems associated with PD.
As PD progresses, the symptoms get worse, including problems with balance, movement speed and tremors. Symptoms also often affect one side of the body more than the other. People with PD may also have non-motor (non-movement) symptoms like depression, loss of sense of smell and sleep disorders, such as periodic limb movement disorder and rapid eye movement behavior disorder.
The diagnosis of PD is based on your health history and a physical and neurological exam. Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests and scans to rule out other diseases or conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Your healthcare provider can recommend medicines to help manage your symptoms. These medicines increase or substitute for dopamine. They can reduce tremors, improve movement and decrease the shaking sensation, but they don’t prevent your symptoms from worsening.
A disease-causing change in one of the genes involved in Parkinson’s — the PARK7, PINK1 and PRKN genes — results in loss of cells that make dopamine. The reduced dopamine interferes with the delicate balance of nerve and muscle cells that control movement. The symptoms are tremors (rhythmic shaking), stiff muscles, slow movements, and balance and walking problems.
Parkinson’s disease usually progresses slowly; the first symptoms often go unnoticed. When tremors begin, they tend to affect only one side of the body. Eventually, the symptoms spread to both sides of the body and become more noticeable.
In this stage, you may need help to stand. You may also have sleep problems, including periodic limb movements (PLM), non-REM sleep behavior disorder, restless legs syndrome, and difficulty aiming your eyes when you blink.
Your thinking abilities may also decline, and you may experience depression or other emotional changes. Hallucinations and delusions can also occur.
Other conditions can cause symptoms like those of Parkinson’s, but these are called “atypical parkinsonism” or “Parkinson-plus syndrome.” These conditions include vascular dementia, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) and Huntington’s disease. They can be diagnosed with a neurological exam and imaging tests. Symptoms of these diseases can be treated with medication. In some cases, surgery can be used to regulate brain activity.
Medications can help control the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Some people also use them to relieve non-motor symptoms, which include hallucinations, sleep problems and constipation.
A person with a family history of the disease or exposure to environmental toxins may have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s. However, the cause of most cases of the disease is still unknown. It is likely a blend of genetics and environmental factors.
People with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease experience the mildest form of the condition, stage 1. Symptoms are usually limited to one side of the body and do not interfere with daily activities or work.
The mainstay treatment for this stage of the condition is levodopa, a drug that came on the market more than five decades ago. It works by replenishing the dopamine in the brain that is depleted as nerve cells die. It can improve speech, movement and balance, but it does not stop symptoms from getting worse.
As the disease progresses to stage 3, tremors become more prominent, especially when the patient rests. People can have difficulty moving and are often unable to stand without assistance. Swallowing becomes difficult, which can lead to drooling, and the muscles that control facial movement lose their ability to function, which can cause a mask-like appearance.
The causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, but scientists know that the condition occurs when nerve cells in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia — which controls movement — die or become impaired. The loss of these cells causes a lack of dopamine and the symptoms of Parkinson’s begin. Other factors that contribute to the development of Parkinson’s are age and genetics. People with a family member who has the disease are two times more likely to develop it themselves than people without a family history.
Symptoms of the disease can affect many parts of your body, but the most noticeable are tremors and stiffness. You also may have difficulty moving and with balance, and your sense of smell can be impacted. Other non-motor symptoms include depression, anxiety, hallucinations, sleep problems, and constipation.
Medications are the main treatment for Parkinson’s. These medications help balance out the chemicals in your brain that control movement by stimulating the remaining cells in the substantia nigra to produce more dopamine (levodopa medications) or inhibiting the amount of acetylcholine produced by these cells (anticholinergic medications). In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery. This involves inserting an electrode into deep parts of the brain that help control movement and sending a small electrical current to reduce or stop tremors or rigidity.