Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended, uncontrollable movements. People may experience difficulties walking and speaking as the disease progresses. People with Parkinson’s may also experience cognitive and behavioural changes, sleep problems, memory problems, as well as fatigue.
While anyone can develop Parkinson’s, some studies suggest it affects more women than men. However, it isn’t clear why, there are studies underway to discover factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing Parkinson’s. While Parkinson’s usually develops after age 60, approximately 5% to 10% of people with Parkinson’s Disease experience it before the age of 50. Parkinson’s with early-onset symptoms can often be inherited.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD), a disorder of the central nervous system, can be specifically described as a progressive movement disorder. It is characterised by a gradual progression of symptoms, including a variety of motor and non-motor. The severity increases over time. The symptoms may be present for years, but the family may not know what to look for.
Parkinson’s Disease is one of the most commonly observed movement disorders falling under Parkinsonism. While Parkinson’s is the death of the dopamine-producing neurons themselves, resulting in brain dysfunction, Parkinsonism is accompanied by other ailments causing similar neurological symptoms, including Dementia. Parkinson’s symptoms usually occur when around 80% of these neurons, that release dopamine, are destroyed. Parkinson’s Disease is also the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s, and it may also be fatal. Although there are no permanent treatments, they can be relatively remedied with medication. In rare cases, surgery may also be recommended.
What Causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease can be characterised by symptoms and signs, including the loss or death of nerve cells in the basal ganglia. This is the area of the brain responsible for movement. Dopamine is a crucial brain chemical that these nerve cells or neurons produce normally. Dopamine production decreases when these neurons die or become disabled, leading to movement problems. Scientists do not yet know the reason these neurons die.
People with Parkinson’s disease also lose nerve endings which produce norepinephrine. The main chemical messenger of our sympathetic nervous system controls many body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and heartbeat. Parkinson’s may also have non-movement characteristics such as fatigue and irregular blood pressure. It is possible that norepinephrine has been lost, which could explain why there is a sudden drop in blood pressure after a person stands up or lies down.
Lewy body clumps are unusually large amounts of the protein alpha-synuclein. Many Parkinson’s disease patients have Lewy brain cells. Scientists are trying to understand the normal functions and abnormalities of alpha-synuclein and their relationship with genetic mutations that can impact Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia.
Parkinson’s disease can sometimes be traced back to genetic mutations. Although genetics is believed to play an important role in Parkinson’s in some cases, it does not appear that the disease can run in families. Researchers believe Parkinson’s can be caused by genetic and environmental factors such as exposure to toxic chemicals.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
Parkinson’s disease has four main symptoms:
- A tremor in your hands, arms or legs, jaw, head, or neck
- Muscle stiffness: When a muscle is contracted for a long duration
- Slowness in movement
- Inadequate balance and coordination that can sometimes lead to falls
Some symptoms could also be:
- Depression and other emotional problems
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking
- Problem with your bowels or constipation
- Skin problems
Different people have different Parkinson’s symptoms. The rate of progression can also vary from person to person. Early signs of the disease are subtle and appear gradually. Some people may feel mild tremors. Some people may think their voice is too soft or their handwriting is too slow. Friends or family members might be the first ones to notice changes in someone with Parkinson’s. They might see that someone with Parkinson’s is not animated or expressive in their face. Or they cannot move one arm or another leg as usual.
Parkinson’s disease sufferers often develop a Parkinsonism gait. They tend to lean forward, take small steps quickly and decrease swinging. They may have difficulty initiating or continuing to move.
Many people with Parkinson’s disease have noted that their symptoms began before stiffness and tremor. They also had sleep problems and constipation. You may experience some of the same symptoms as normal ageing. However, your doctor should be consulted if any symptoms become severe or start to affect daily living.
These are some risk factors for Parkinson’s Disease:
- Old age: Very few people in their 20s experience Parkinson’s. The disease usually develops in middle and late life. As you age, the likelihood of developing it increases. Most people who develop this disease are 60 years old or older.
- Genetics: Being related to someone with Parkinson’s increases your chances of developing the disease. Your chances of developing Parkinson’s are low if you have Parkinson’s -related relatives.
- Sexuality: More likely than women to develop Parkinson’s.
- Toxicology: Constant exposure to pesticides or herbicides can slightly increase your risk for Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s Disease & Changes in Cognition
Parkinson’s patients can experience cognitive changes, such as memory problems, attention issues, and difficulty planning and completing their tasks. These changes in cognition may also be caused or contributed to by depression, stress, and certain medications.
As the disease progresses, some people can develop dementia. Parkinson’s dementia can lead to severe memory and thinking problems affecting daily living.
Talk to your doctor about Parkinson’s disease if you or your loved ones are suffering from memory or thinking difficulties.
Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease
The diagnosis of Parkinson’s is not made by laboratory or blood tests. Doctors typically diagnose Parkinson’s by reviewing a person’s medical history and conducting a neurological exam. If the symptoms do not improve after taking medication, this is another sign that the patient may have Parkinson’s.
Many disorders can cause similar symptoms to Parkinson’s. Parkinsonism is a condition where Parkinson’s symptoms mimic other conditions such as multiple system atrophy and dementia with Lewy Bodies. Although initially, these disorders might be misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s, some medical tests and the response to drug treatment can help identify the cause. Other diseases can have similar features, but they need different treatments. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis quickly.
Parkinson’s Disease Treatments
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, some symptoms can be relieved by medication, surgery or other therapies.
- Medicines can help in treating the disease
- The brain’s dopamine level should be increased
- The ability affects neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that transmit information between brain cells, and other brain chemicals.
- Non-movement symptoms need to be managed
Levodopa remains the main therapy to treat Parkinson’s. People often take levodopa in combination with another medication called carbidopa. Carbidopa helps reduce or prevent some side effects of levodopa treatment, including nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure and restlessness. It also reduces the amount of levodopa needed to treat these symptoms.
A doctor may recommend other medications to treat Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Dopamine agonists to increase dopamine brain production
- Enzyme inhibitors (e.g. MAO/B inhibitors or COMT inhibitors) can increase dopamine levels by slowing the enzymes that break down dopamine.
- Amantadine helps to reduce involuntary movements.
- Anticholinergic drugs are used to reduce tremors or rigidity in the muscles.
- Deep brain stimulation.
Deep brain stimulation might be recommended for Parkinson’s-related patients who don’t respond to medications. A doctor will place electrodes in part of the skull and attach them to an implanted
small electric device in the chest. The electrodes stimulate specific areas of the brain responsible for movement. It may be able to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, including tremors, slowness or rigidity, as well as other movement-related symptoms, like stiffness, slowness, tremor, and slowness.
You may also consider other therapies to help you manage Parkinson’s disease symptoms. These therapies may be physical, occupational, or speech and can help with gait, voice disorders, tremors or rigidity, and mental decline:
- A healthy diet can support overall well-being.
- Exercises that will strengthen your muscles and improve coordination.
- Massage therapy can reduce tension.
- Yoga and Tai Chi can help increase flexibility, stretching, and flexibility.
- Support for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Although Parkinson’s progress is slow, the person’s daily routines could eventually be affected. It could be difficult to carry out daily activities, such as taking care of your home or working. Although these changes can seem overwhelming, support groups can help people cope. These support groups can offer advice, information, and connections with resources for Parkinson’s patients, their families, caregivers, and loved ones. The organisations below can help individuals locate local support groups and other resources within their communities.
Parkinson’s disease can be both progressive and chronic, making managing Parkinson’s care difficult. There is no one way Parkinson’s disease will affect everyone, and senior loved ones might be resistant to receiving help. Parkinson’s disease in its early stages can often be more difficult to manage than hands-on care.
As the senior patient becomes more unable to do ADLs (daily living activities), caring becomes more complicated. Most stressful for the patient’s family is the uncertainty of daily caregiving, which is difficult to predict given Parkinson’s. The senior loved one may experience more challenges and responsibilities for family members.
Parkinson’s disease has no prevention, but treatments and care can help sufferers have a better quality of life. Give love and care to the elderly in this especially hard time. Hope this article helps manage your loved one’s Parkinson’s well.
How long do the elderly live with Parkinson’s?
It is estimated that someone with Parkinson’s disease will die at the age of 81, which is approximately as old as the average life expectancy in the United States. It is estimated that the average lifespan in the United States is between the ages of 78 and 81, depending on one’s location and age.
How does Parkinson’s disease affect the elderly?
The rigidity of limbs, stiffness of the neck, or shoulder. A person with postural instability cannot stand up and maintain it, which can result in falling. A condition in which muscles slow down or lose the ability to move (Bradykinesia), which can include difficulties walking, reduced blink rates, or difficulty making facial expressions.
Does Parkinson’s get worse with age?
There is usually a gradual onset of symptoms that worsens over time, and patients may find themselves unable to walk or talk as the disease progresses. There may also be behavioural and mental changes, sleep problems, depression, challenges with memory, and fatigue when they have these illnesses.