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Parkinson's Disease Explained

May 22, 2022 0 comments
Parkinson's Disease Explained

If you or a loved one is suspected of having Parkinson's Disease then you might have a few questions regarding this medical condition, and this page will cover the most frequently asked questions.

Table of Content

What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's Disease is a nervous system disorder that affects movement gradually.

What are Parkinson's Disease Symptoms?

Parkinson's Symptoms worsen over time and can include varying degrees of tremor, stiffness or slowing of movements such as:

  • Hands or fingers shaking or trembling.
  • Steps becoming shorter and slower.
  • Muscle stiffness causing pain and limiting range of motion.
  • Decreased ability to perform unconscious movements such as blink, smile or swing arms when walking.
  • Speech becoming slurred, softer or more monotone,
  • Posture becoming more stooped resulting in balance problems and increased risk of falls.
  • Writing becomes more difficult and appears smaller than normal.

Is Parkinson's disease a curable disease?

At this stage Parkinson's Disease is not curable, but there are medications that can slow down it's progression, and significantly improve your symptoms, and aids that can help improve your quality of life.

How Parkinson's Disease Occurs?

Parkinson's Disease occurs as a result of nerve cells known as 'neurons' breaking down, leading to reduced dopamine levels and impaired movement.

What are the causes of Parkinson's Disease?

The exact causes of Parkinson's Disease remain unknown, but researchers believe there are several risk factors which include:

  • Age. It is more common the older you are and tends to develop in those over 60 years of age.
  • Genetics. It is believed that certain mutations in genes can increase the risk of Parkinson's Disease.
  • Sex. Parkinson's disease tends to be more common in men than in women.
  • Exposure to Toxins. It is believed that ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides can increase the risk of developing Parkinson's Disease.

How Parkinson's Disease Affects the Brain?

People with Parkinson's Disease often have Lewy Bodies, which are clumps of specific substances within brain cells, that cannot be broken down.

How Parkinson's Disease Affects the Body?

Parkinson's Disease causes your body to slow down and can lead to various complications such as:

  • Thinking difficulties
  • Depression and emotional changes
  • Swallowing problems
  • Chewing and eating problems
  • Sleep problems and disorders
  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Smell dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sexual dysfunction

How Parkinson's Disease is Diagnosed?

Parkinson's disease is often diagnosed by Neurologists, who are specialist doctors trained in nervous system conditions, and will look at your medical history, signs and symptoms, as well as conduct a neurological and physical examination.

Although Parkinson's disease can be diagnosed by looking at your symptoms, and conducting a neurologic examination, some doctors may order a Dopamine Transporter scan (DaTscan).

In addition, doctors that suspect the diagnosis may trial Parkinson's Disease Medications to see if there are any improvements in your symptoms.

How Parkinson's Disease Progresses?

Everyone will be impacted differently by Parkinson's Disease, but the typical patterns of progression are:

  • Stage 1: Mild symptoms with minimal impact to daily activities such as tremor on one side of the body, or changes in posture, walking or facial expressions.
  • Stage 2: Mild-moderate symptoms start to make daily tasks more difficult and lengthy. Tremor and rigidity may affect both sides of the body, and walking and posture problems may be apparent.
  • Stage 3: Moderate Symptoms significantly impairing activities such as dressing and eating. Symptoms include slowness of movements and loss of balance, increasing the risk of falls.
  • Stage 4: Moderate-Severe Symptoms requiring daily living aids and/or assistance from carer. Walker is required to assist with movement and balance and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Stage 5: Severe symptoms and unable to move. Stiffness in legs may make it impossible to stand or walk, and person may require a wheelchair or be bedridden. Person may also experience delusions and hallucinations.

Parkinson's Disease Medications

Although Parkinson's Disease is not curable at this stage, doctors can prescribe medications that increase or substitute dopamine levels and assist with the management of problems with walking, movement and tremor such as:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa
  • Dopamine agonists e.g. Sifrol (Pramipexole)
  • MAO B Inhibitors e.g. Xadago (Safinamide), Azilect (Rasagiline)
  • COMT Inhibitors e.g. Comtan (Entacapone)
  • Anticholinergics e.g. Benztropine (Cogentin)
  • Amantadine

Parkinson's Disease Daily Living Aids

In addition to medications to improve your motor symptoms there are many disability aids available to improve your quality of life such as:

  • Rollator Walkers to improve your stability and balance when walking and reducing your risk of falls. 
  • Parkinson's Disease Cutlery specifically designed to make it easier to eat and drink.
  • Standing Aids that assist you from sitting to standing position regardless of whether you are on your couch, in bed, in the kitchen, or in the bathroom.

Parkinson's Disease Explained References

  1. Parkinson’s Foundation. (2017). Understanding Parkinson’s. [online] Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons.
  2. Elkouzi, A. (2019). What Is Parkinson’s? [online] Parkinson’s Foundation. Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons.
  3. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Parkinson’s disease - Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/ [Accessed 22 May 2022].

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