Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a difficult subject for over 60,000 American families and the medical community alike. A chronic and progressive movement disorder, Parkinson’s currently has no cure with its causes relatively unknown.

What we do know is that Parkinson's Disease involves the malfunction and death of vital neurons in the brain, primarily within the substantia nigra. This portion of the brain is one of our body’s movement control centers and is located in the brain stem above the spinal cord.

As these neurons decay, the release of dopamine is disrupted to affect the proper functioning of the central nervous system. The result is a lack of control over one’s movement and balance, along with a range of other symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Although we don’t know the exact cause of Parkinson’s, we do know that a variety of different symptoms can be early warning signs for the disease. Traditionally, these symptoms will occur on one side of the body and move to the other. These symptoms include:

  • Shaking and tremors
  • Small handwriting
  • Loss of smell
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty walking or moving
  • Constipation
  • A soft or low voice
  • “Masked” face
  • Dizziness
  • Stooping, or hunched posture

What are the Causes of Parkinson’s Disease?

Although we are not actually sure what causes Parkinson’s, researchers have a found a few contributing factors that can increase the likelihood of the disease.

Genetics

Studies have shown that genetics actually play a factor when it comes to Parkinson’s Disease. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation also reported that someone with a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who has Parkinson’s is at a 4 to 9 times greater risk of developing Parkinson’s than someone with no relatives affected by the disease.

Dewey Bodies

Dewey bodies are abnormal clumps of proteins found in the brain. If untreated, these clumps can affect the processing center of the brain, causing a variety of neurological issues.

Lack of Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that aids in the process of communication. If the amount of dopamine in the brain is low, it may be unable to transfer messages throughout the body. Lack of this chemical could have grave implications when it comes to brain health.

Age

Unfortunately, studies have also shown that as you age your risk of Parkinson’s increases. As you grow older, it’s important to recognize the warning signs so you can figure out a plan of action.

Diagnoses of Parkinson’s

While there is no specific tests to help identify Parkinson’s disease, doctors will perform a physical exam to assess the situation. Shaking or trouble sitting still may be an early warning sign, as well as rigidity. The doctor will try to identify these symptoms during the exam and will ask for family history as well.

Treatments of Parkinson’s Disease

Most doctors will prescribe medication to treat the disease. The medications include:

  • Sinemet
  • Requip
  • Anticholinergics
  • COMT Inhibitors

Doctors will also recommend physical therapy to reduce rigidity and restlessness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My father has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease but he won't accept it. Why won't he accept that he has this disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder that is going to greatly affect your father for the rest of his life. When someone finds out they have a chronic condition like this, their shock can quickly turn into denial of the disease.

You can help your loved one overcome Parkinson’s disease denial by being supportive. Help them learn everything they can about their condition. Help make sure they are taking medications and following their treatment plan. Try and schedule some time for your father’s physician to sit with them and go over all of their concerns.

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How does a doctor know that someone has Parkinson's disease?

If you find that you are suffering from the signs or symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, you will need to visit a neurologist. There are not currently any specific tests to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, but there are ways that your doctor will determine if you have the disease or not.

They will thoroughly examine your medical history and perform a neurological exam to assess your motor functionality and balance. They will use a blood test to rule out other conditions or diseases that could be causing your symptoms. Neurologists can use various imaging test to differentiate between PD and other disorders with similar symptoms. Then, they will enter all of your test results into the United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. This tool will help them determine if you have the disease and help monitor the progression of your symptoms.

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