Named after the British physician James Parkinson who discovered it, Parkinson’s Disease is a common brain disorder affecting over 1 million people in the United States and 5 million people across the globe. It is the most common movement disorder and second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world. It is most prevalent among people ages 60 years and older, although early-onset between 21 to 40 years and juvenile-onset (21 and younger) are also possible.
Parkinson’s disease refers to a condition in which muscle control is lost, leading to the trembling of limbs and the head even while at rest. It is also characterized by stiffness and slowness of movement as well as impaired balance. As the condition worsens, the person’s ability to talk, walk, and perform simple tasks will be impaired.
Progression of the disorder varies from one person to another. Some Parkinson’s disease patients are able to go on with their lives, keeping their productivity for as long as they could. Others, meanwhile are debilitated more immediately. This can also lead to premature death due to fall-related injuries, pneumonia and other complications.
The main cause of Parkinson’s is the lack of a substance called dopamine that serves as a messenger between the two areas of the brain, namely the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum. Communication between these two main brain areas is crucial to produce proper controlled movements. Lack of dopamine in the brain is caused by the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells. This is due to genetic and environmental factors including dysfunctional cellular process, inflammation and stress.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is classified into three groups: tremor, rigidity of limbs and trunk, and slow movement. Tremor usually starts with one hand. Other symptoms include speech and language impairment, depression, sleep difficulties, poor memory, mood changes, sexuality problems, urinary incontinence, and visual disturbances. Because this is a progressive disease, it means that the symptoms would worsen over the years.
No laboratory or blood test can accurately provide diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease. However, it can be diagnosed through examination of the history of symptoms as well as through an extensive neurological examination of a person suspected to have this disorder. If the motor symptoms such as tremors or rigidity get better after taking trial medications for Parkinson’s, then it means that the person likely has this disease.
Although there is presently no cure for this disease, effective treatments can alleviate the symptoms and help a person get by his day-to-day life. Examples of available treatments include physical therapy, levodopa drug therapy, other drug therapies, and surgery.
Living With Parkinson’s Disease
If you have this disease, it’s important to remember that it is not the end of everything. Many people with Parkinson’s are able to live full and active lives. They do that by using the available treatment options, maintaining a physically active life, and by getting emotional support from family, friends, and support groups. A positive outlook is the main ingredient of being able to live a wonderful life despite having this disease.