Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological illness that targets motor skills. Many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are due a lack of the chemical dopamine in the brain.
This is a “motor system” disorder because it affects a person’s movement and coordination.
This disease is generally diagnosed and treated after the age of 50, but it strikes younger people as well. There is no particular group of people affected. It affects people of every ethnic and social group as well as any geographic area.
Currently there is no cure for this disease. No blood test will confirm or deny its presence. MRI’s are often used to rule out any other neurological cause for the symptoms.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Tremors of the hands, legs, arms, or face tend to occur when the limb is at rest but not when performing tasks.
- Shaking of the hands, legs, arms, or face
- Bradykinesia is slowness of voluntary movements such as walking. It causes difficulty in starting movement as well as completing a movement once begun.
- Problems with balance
- Rigidity of limbs or stiff muscles may produce muscle pain and tends to increase during movement.
- Parkinsonian gait is a distinctive unsteady walk associated with Parkinson’s disease. The affected person tends to bend unnaturally backwards or forwards, and develop a stooped, head-down, shoulders-dropped stance.
- Arm swing is reduced or absent, people with Parkinson’s tend to take small-shuffling steps. This is called festination.
- A person with Parkinson’s may have problems starting movement to walk, seem to fall forward as they walk, freeze in mid-stride and make box like turns.
- Impaired speech-the affected person may have difficulty speaking; their voices become very soft and monotone.
- Blinking, smiling and other automatic movements may be lost; these are all unconscious acts that are normal actions of people.
- Stiffness of trunk and limbs
- Stiffness of facial expressions, often referred as the Parkinson’s Mask, this is caused by the rigidity of muscles of the face.
- Cramped handwriting
There are many other non-motor complications of Parkinson’s disease including:
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Urinary problems
- Sleep Problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Excessive salivation
- Loss of intellectual capacity
- Anxiety, depression, isolation
There are a number of medications to help manage the symptoms of this disease, but do nothing to stop the progression of the disease.
Levodopa and carbidopa are considered the gold standard in drug therapy. Levodopa is a natural substance found in plants and animals. It is a precursor to dopamine and when given to patients it is converted to dopamine by nerve cells in the brain. Carbidopa is given in conjunction with Levodopa because it helps get more Levodopa to the brain and lessens some of the side effects.
Other medications include dopamine agonists, anticholinergics, Amantadine, Coenzyme Q10.
Parkinson’s disease is a distressing and exhausting condition for the patient as well as family and friends. The most serious and disabling impact of this disease is the gradual loss of mobility. This in turn leads to loss of independence in daily activities.
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