Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive degenerative disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, muscle control and balance. Also called idiopathic or primary parkinsonism or hypokinetic rigid syndrome (HRS), the disorder results from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. The disease progresses gradually with the symptoms becoming more severe over time.
Types, Causes and Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
The Parkinsonian syndrome is divided into four types based on its origin:
- Primary or idiopathic
- Secondary or acquired
- Hereditary parkinsonism
- Parkinson plus syndrome
Idiopathic or primary Parkinson’s disease is the most common among the four types and may be triggered by:
- Genetic factors like mutations in the gene coding for alpha-synuclein, parkin and leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 have been conclusively shown to cause PD.
- Environmental factors like toxins and chemicals linked to certain insecticides and pesticides may play a role.
Certain factors that may increase the risk PD include:
- Gender: Men stand a higher risk
- Age: The average age of onset for Parkinson’s disease is 55 and the risk is directly proportional to age
- Family history: People with siblings or parents with Parkinson’s disease face an increased risk
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may be mild and can go unnoticed but may include:
- Tremors in the hands, arms, legs and face
- Slowness of movement
- Muscle rigidity
- Speech problems
- Difficulty walking and balancing
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Depression accompanied with memory problems
Diagnosis and Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may be done with the assistance of a neurologist who may base his decision on a neurological and physical examination, the patient’s medical history and the visible symptoms.
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, medications, physical therapy and certain surgical procedures can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life. The treatment is usually adapted to individual needs and aims at easing the symptoms. These may include:
- Medications to help reduce the tremors and simple activities like walking such as levodopa (L-dopa), dopamine agonists, monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) inhibitors and catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors (COMT).
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS) or neuro-stimulation targets to treat the motor symptoms like severe tremors and dyskinesia.
- Pallidotomy and thalamotomy involve operating the areas of the brain associated with the symptoms of the disease.
- Rehabilitation in the form of the regular physical exercise and physiotherapy may help improve mobility and flexibility along with the quality of life. Speech therapy may improve speech impairment, while occupational therapy may help people with Parkinson’s disease participate in their favorite daily activities.
There are also some alternative therapies like:
- Ayurveda, which defines Parkinson’s disease as “Kampavata,” and focusses on balancing the Vata imbalance. This can involve therapies like massage and fomentation that are combined with a healthy diet.
- Natural remedies like psyllium, flaxseeds and triphala may also be beneficial
- Specific yoga poses like talasana, utkasana and simhasana may be used along with certain breathing techniques.
- Tai-Chi may help improve posture, balance and gait
- Hypnotherapy and aromatherapy may also have a positive impact on individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is known to progress over the years, but if left untreated, the motor symptoms can advance more aggressively in the early stages of the disease. If left completely unattended, individuals with Parkinson’s disease often lose independent ambulation after a few years.
Complications of Parkinson’s Disease
Complications associated with Parkinson’s disease may result due to the neurodegenerative nature of the disease. The loss of motor functions usually makes it impossible for the sufferer to carry out daily activities. Some of the complications seen are:
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Problems in swallowing
- Sleep disorders
- Bladder problems
- Elevated blood pressure
While Parkinson’s disease can progress to a completely debilitating state, if diagnosed early, one can focus on managing the symptoms and making everyday life more comfortable to deal with.
The content of this Website is for informational purposes only, is general in nature and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and does not constitute professional advice. The information on this Website should not be considered as complete and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise, weight loss, or health care program and/or any of the beauty treatments.
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