Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder in elders, which affects motor control, balance, and other related symptoms. It is usually diagnosed between the age of 40 to 70 and through symptoms like tremors, slowed movements, physical balance, etc. Although the disease is not curable, Parkinson’s condition can be managed using several ways and treatments. Read on to find out the symptoms, management, treatment options, and ways to slow down Parkinson’s progression.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a degenerative and incurable brain disease that causes motor and non-motor-related symptoms. It affects the basal ganglia, causing it to deteriorate and change the brain chemistry, which leads to the lack of dopamine in the brain. This is one of the essential neurotransmitters in charge of mood, memory, cognition, etc., and a lack of which can cause tremors and slowed physical movements in the body. As the condition progresses, the symptoms become more visible and must be managed through medication.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease symptoms may vary from one person to other. It includes both motor and non-motor symptoms that can slowly progress and may go unnoticed till it gets worse.
The motor symptoms may include:-
- Slowed physical movement: Also known as bradykinesia, your physical movement becomes tedious and slowed. It may be difficult to walk or even sit on a chair due to the loss of muscle control.
- Tremors: these tremors usually start on the fingers or hands, even during resting. These are uncontrollable and rhythmic shaking of body parts while muscles rest.
- Stiffness of the body: There is rigidity in muscle movement, which can cause pain and stiffness of a body part along with tremors.
- Impaired gait: Due to the stiffness and slowed muscles, the patient will have a stooped posture and a slower gait.
- Loss of facial expression: Unable to carry out automatic movements like blinking, smiling, etc., due to the loss of movement in facial muscles. Drooling and trouble swallowing are common symptoms of the condition.
The non-motor symptoms are usually early warning signs and can appear earlier than motor symptoms. These include
- Sleep issues
- Behavioral and emotional changes
- Loss of sense of smell
- Constipation, Bladder issues, sexual dysfunction, etc.
Causes of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease’s cause is unknown, although many pieces of research show that these factors mentioned below can contribute to the breakdown of brain cells:
- Genetic Factors: Certain genetic mutations and variations can increase the risk of the condition. Recent research has developed NeuroX, a DNA chip that can identify a person’s risk of developing the disease.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to substances like carbon monoxide, pesticides, and manganese dust.
- Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease: is due to Lewy bodies and clumped alpha-synuclein protein build-up in various areas wherein the cells cannot break it down.
- Other factors include age, heredity, and sex.
Testing and Diagnosis of Parkinson’s
Several diagnostic and imaging tests can determine the Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. These are
- Spinal Tap: That involves testing for misfolded alpha-synuclein protein in spinal fluid.
- Skin biopsy to test the presence of the misfolded protein from a small patch of skin and nerves that is taken from your back and leg.
- MRI/CET/PET scans
- Blood tests
- Genetic testing
Living with Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s is not curable; however, the medications can help manage and slow the progression of symptoms, and the patient can lead a normal and active lifestyle for a more extended period. Medications and treatment methods may vary with the progression and symptoms. Parkinson’s disease treatments aim to increase dopamine, which is in charge of the body’s movement.
1. Parkinson’s disease medications
There are multiple ways to treat the condition, one is the immediate treatment of the disease itself, and the other is the treatment of specific symptoms. One of the common and most used medications is levodopa.
- Adding dopamine: This increases the dopamine level in the brain.
- Stimulating Dopamine: Usually used for younger patients. It causes a dopamine-like effect and can delay the usage of the medication – Levodopa.
- Dopamine metabolism blocker: Used for the early stage of Parkinson’s to block the breakdown of dopamine.
- Levodopa metabolism inhibitors: These slow the processing of levodopa, resulting in the extended presence of the medication.
- Adenosine blocker: It is used for support while using levodopa. The Levodopa medication must be used with caution as it loses its effectiveness in the long run. It is often prescribed with other medicines to slow down the processing and treat other symptoms like nausea, balance, and so on. Over time, it loses its effect as our body changes how it uses the medications. The dosage can only be increased as the physician sees fit to manage the symptoms.
2. Deep brain stimulation
This is the second treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease. It involves inserting a tiny device that can send electrical impulses to the parts of the brain. It is reversible and causes less scarring. It is suitable for patients in the later stage of the disease. It is the next step that can be done for patients having uncontrollable tremors that do not resolve with medications and less effective Levodopa treatment.
3. Experimental treatments
involve stem cell therapy, gene therapy, and neuron repair treatment.
How to Prevent Parkinson’s Disease?
Although there are no known reasons and cures as to why the levels of dopamine decrease, there are several ways we can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s symptoms and its progression. Here are a few of the tips:-
- Exercise and physical activity: Research has shown that exercises can increase the level of dopamine in the body. In addition to brain health, it contributes to improved lung capacity, reduction of inflammation and stress, enhanced bone health, and many more. Stretching and aerobic exercises are said to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s like stiffness, cognitive functioning, etc.
- Organic and Local Foods: Reduced exposure to certain pesticides and herbicides can reduce the risk of the condition. Researchers have shown a higher amount of pesticides in the brains of those affected.
- Raw and fresh vegetables: green and leafy vegetables contain Vitamin B and folic acid, which reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. The greens, including spinach, kale, okra, avocado, etc., are the best source of Vitamins and antioxidants.
- Consumption of Omega-3 Fatty acid: The highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, cod, and walnuts. In addition to preventing cell degeneration, consuming omega-three fatty acids improves cholesterol levels and cardiovascular and immunity power.
- Vitamin D3: It comes from sunlight and animal fats. Regular consumption prevents calcium and phosphorus deficiency, resulting in lower bone health and energy.
- Stress: The leading dopamine killer is stress. Both physical and mental stress can cause inflammation and lead to several disease symptoms.
- CoQ10 coenzyme is used for cellular growth, and its deficiency may cause diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It is found in meat, fish, and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
All these factors can help lead a healthy and normal lifestyle that can reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
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Although Parkinson’s is not fatal, it is unpredictable and a lifelong condition. If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, consult with your physician to help draw a long-term treatment plan to manage the symptoms and make necessary lifestyle changes as and when required. Ongoing research has shown promising results in slowing Parkinson’s progression and improving treatment plans.
What are usually the first signs of Parkinson’s?
Early stages of Parkinson’s disease include tremors in fingers, stiffness and slowed movement, stooped gait, and so on.
How long can you live with Parkinson’s?
The disease is a progressive disorder and not fatal. The life expectancy remains almost the same for a person who does not suffer from the disease. Management of symptoms can depend upon the treatment plan and medication.
What does bradykinesia mean?
It means the stiffness or slowness of movement and is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Do Parkinson’s patients shake in their sleep?
People with Parkinson’s disease do not have tremors while they sleep. However, the illness and medications can cause insomnia and other sleep disorders.
How do doctors test for Parkinson’s?
Several tests to determine Parkinson’s disease diagnosis include a spinal tap, skin biopsy, CET/PET/MRI scans, etc.
What foods should Parkinson’s patients avoid?
Avoid foods high in fat, processed or canned foods; high in protein, etc., that can lessen the effects of medication.
How quickly does Parkinson’s progress?
Parkinson’s disease stages and symptoms vary from person to person, and it can take months or years for the symptoms to progress. A person diagnosed with the disease can have the same life expectancy as an average person.