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Parkinson’s Disease Meaning, Causes and Symptoms

Parkinson’s diseases meaning is described as both a chronic and a progressive movement disorder, meaning that once it occurs the symptoms continue and worsen over time. It is named after Dr. James Parkinson, the doctor that first identified the condition. A whopping 4 million people (approximately) worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s disease and, around 1 in 20 people are diagnosed under the age of 40 years. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments can help maintain a quality of life.

In this article learn about Parkinson’s Disease Meaning, Causes and Symptoms

Parkinson’s Disease Meaning

Parkinson’s disease meaning is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that develops very slowly and affects the movement of a human body. Progression of symptoms varies person to person and in most people, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease take years to develop. In this disease, a person’s brain progressively stops producing a neurotransmitter, dopamine produced by brain cells. Dopamine is responsible for relaying messages from one part of the brain to have smooth coordinated muscle movements.

When Parkinson’s disease starts to develop, neuron break down leading to less dopamine and person starts having trouble in moving the way they want. Though the main cause of the degeneration of the brain cells is still unknown to the medical sciences, scientists have established several risk factors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s Disease Causes & Risk Factors

In Parkinson’s disease, several neurons degenerate causing the decline in the production of dopamine which leads to abnormal brain activities. However, the certain cause for the development of the disease is still unknown, there are several risk factors responsible for this:

  • Genes: Specific genetic mutation has been identified which is responsible for Parkinson’s disease, which is a neurodegeneration disease. However, these are very uncommon.
  • Lewy bodies: These are clumps of a widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (A-synuclein) within neurons and according to neurologists, these are the main factor for this disease.
  • Age: It usually starts in mid or late life and the risk increases with age.
    Heredity or family history: If a close relative or family member had this disease, then the chances to develop Parkinson’s is very high.
  • Sex: Men are more prone to the disease than women.
  • Exposure to chemicals: Exposure to pesticides may put you on the edge of having this disease.

As this disease is progressive, it takes many years to get worse but the degree of impairment varies from person to person. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms and even if they do, the level of intensity might not be the same. Many people with this disease can live full productive lives while others may become disabled more quickly.

Parkinson’s Symptoms & Warning Signs

Parkinson’s symptoms appear gradually but they continue to grow and worsen over the period of time. There are three key signs that start showing early in Parkinson’s disease. These include tremor, which usually occurs on one side of the body when the person is at rest; rigidity in the movement when you try to move the person’s joint; slowness or bradykinesia means small movement.

Parkinson’s symptoms may include:

  • Tremor or Shaking: it usually starts from limbs- hands or fingers and occurs when the body is at rest. The tremor of thumb and index finder is fast and shakes rhythmically; often called “pill rolling action”.
  • Slow Movement: Over time, patient’s ability to move is reduced which causes slow movement, making routine activities seem very difficult. Steps become very shorter and dragging of feet also happens sometimes.
  • Rigidity: In this, the patient feels pain due to the stiffness in the joints.
  • Imbalance walking: During the later stage of the disease, the patient may experience the poor posture with drooping shoulders and feet shuffling.
  • Beyond Movement Symptoms:
    These are the Parkinson’s symptoms which develop as the disease progress and not every person will experience these:

    • Sleeping problems
    • Fatigue
    • Speech changes
    • Constipation
    • Swallowing problems
    • Excessive salivation
    • Depression
    • Increase in dandruff
    • Lack of facial expression
    • Small handwriting
    • Decreased sense of smell
    • Tiredness
    • Bladder Problems
    • Change in Blood Pressure
  • Psychotic symptoms:
    Visual or auditory hallucinations may occur in 50% of cases. In Parkinson’s, patients may experience memory loss similar to what is seen in Alzheimer’s

Parkinson’s Diagnosis

There is no definitive diagnosis or examination for this neurological disorder and it is based entirely on the signs and Parkinson’s symptoms. Tremors, odd walk or posture, and rigidity observed in Parkinson’s disease are different from what we see in other cases which make it more distinguishable. The specialist may also check for a sense of smell of the patient.

Except for biopsy, there is no definitive lab test as well to diagnose the disease. Blood tests or imaging tests may be done to check for other problems like the brain tumor or stroke.

Also read about: Alzheimer’s Disease Stages

Parkinson’s Stages

In Parkinson’s disease, depending on the different typical patterns of progression of the disease, it is classified in different stages. Knowing these stages can help the patient to cope with the changes or the symptoms as they occur and it will help doctors to plan a suitable treatment for the patient.

Stage 1: During this, the patient has no or very mild symptoms that do not interfere with routine activities. Usually, the very first symptoms include a tremor occur on only one side of the body, termed as shaking palsy. There may be a change in walking, posture or facial expressions.
Stage 2: In this, symptoms progressively start getting worse and tremors which occur only on one side of the body during Stage 1, now start affecting both sides of the body. Twitching in face expression and posture problem becomes more prominent.
Stage 3: It is the mid-stage in the progression of the Parkinson’s disease. In this loss of balance, falling and slow and weird movements become more frequent. Routine activities like dressing and eating are significantly affected during this stage.
Stage 4: During this stage, the patient needs constant help with the daily activities and is unable to live alone as symptoms become very severe.
Stage 5: This is the most deteriorating stage of the disease in which the stiffness in the joints make it impossible for the patient to walk or simply stand. Usually, a patient is bedridden at this stage and 24×7 caretaker is required. Hallucinations and delusions are also very common.

Parkinson’s Treatment

As the cause of the disease is unknown and since permanent Parkinson’s disease cure is not known in the medical sciences, doctors usually suggest medications which can help control the symptoms or sometimes even dramatically delay the progression. Medications manage the issues related to walking, tremor or movement and these are the substitute of dopamine chemical.

  • Medication
    • Carbidopa-levodopa: Levodopa is the most effective medication for Parkinson’s disease as it is a natural chemical which enters in your brain and converts into dopamine. When combined with carbidopa, it is prevented from premature conversion to dopamine outside the brain. Side effects are nausea or light-headedness
    • Dopamine agonists: Unlike levodopa, this drug doesn’t change into dopamine, instead acts as a dopamine.
    • MAO-B inhibitors: They prevent the brain dopamine to further break down by inhibiting the brain enzyme MAO-B. Side effects may include insomnia and even increase the risk of hallucinations when combined with carbidopa-levodopa.
  • Surgical Procedures
    • Deep brain stimulation: In this procedure, electrodes are implanted into a specific part of your brain which is in turn, connected to a generator implanted in the chest that sends an electrical pulse to the brain reducing the effects of symptoms. Although it gives relief from the symptoms, it doesn’t keep Parkinson’s disease from progressing.
  • Alternative medicines
    • Yoga: Gentle stretching poses of Yoga, helps in increasing the flexibility of the body.
    • Acupuncture: In this, a practitioner inserts tiny needles into many specific points of the body reducing the pain caused by the rigidity or stiffness of the joints.
    • Coenzyme Q10: According to researchers, this may be beneficial for patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease if the intake is for 16 months or longer.

Parkinson’s Disease Prevention

There is no certain way to prevent neurological disorder i.e. Parkinson’s disease, however, people who eat healthy meals rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high- fiber foods may ease some of the symptoms. Always ensure regular follow-up visits to your healthcare doctor to keep a tab on your recovery.