Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that impairs movement. Further, symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable involuntary shaking or movement [Tremors] in just one hand. While tremors are typical, the disorder commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
In the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show light or no expression. Your forearms may not swing when you walk, and your speech may become soft or mispronounced. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition advances over time.
While Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, medications can significantly improve your symptoms after you’ve begun understanding Parkinson’s. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend surgery to regulate specific regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
No one knows why a person gets Parkinson’s disease. It is most likely due to a mix of things, including genes and exposure to certain toxins.
There is usually no way to predict who will get it or why. It is rare for Parkinson’s to run in families, and most of the time, it seems to happen accidentally.
Who Can Get Parkinson’s Disease?
Both males and females can get Parkinson’s disease. However, it is 1.5 times more common in males. Also, it is more common in older people.
About 4 out of every 100 cases happen in people under the age of 50. Every year, about 60,000 people in the U.S. discover that they have Parkinson’s. And about 1 million people in the U.S. and 10 million worldwide are suffering from this condition.
Nevertheless, getting Parkinson’s disease is a confusing puzzle, and scientists are trying their best to put the pieces together.
What Can You Expect?
Parkinson’s, being a progressive disease, worsens symptoms over time. Besides, the symptoms of Parkinson’s vary a lot from person to person. Early symptoms may be easy to ignore or dismiss as they might start on one side of your body and later show up on the other side.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
Understanding Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unrecognized. Symptoms often arise on one side of your body and generally remain worse on that side, even after symptoms arise on both sides.
Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may involve:
- Tremors: A tremor or shaking typically begins in your arms, often your hands or fingers. You may rub your thumb and finger back and forth, also known as a pill-rolling tremor. Moreover, your hand may tremble when it is at rest.
- Rigid Muscles: Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of your body. Stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of actions.
- Slowed Movement [Bradykinesia]: With time, Parkinson’s disease may slow down your movement. As a result, you will find simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Also, your steps may become shorter while walking, and you can find it challenging to get out of a chair. You may need to drag your feet when you try to walk.
- Impaired Posture and Balance: Your posture will become stooped, and you will face balance issues due to Parkinson’s disease.
- Loss of Unconcious Movements: You may sense a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements such as blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms while walking.
- Speech Problems: You may start speaking softly, quickly, or even hesitate before talking. Moreover, your speech may become monotonous instead of having the usual inflections.
- Writing Changes: Writing may become difficult for you, and your writing may appear small.
Risk Factors Of Parkinson’s Disease
There are several risk factors associated with Parkinson’s. They are as follows:
- Age: Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s. Generally, it begins in middle or late life, and the risk rises with age. Furthermore, people usually develop this disease around age 60 or above.
- Gender: Males are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than females.
- Toxin Exposures: Exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your chances of Parkinson’s disease.
At first, it can be challenging for doctors to begin understanding Parkinson’s disease because symptoms vary a lot. Other disorders can also look similar.
Unfortunately, there’s no single test for Parkinson’s. Your doctor might order imaging tests [Brain Ultrasound or MRI] to rule out other conditions and may also ask questions regarding symptoms, medications, and any exposure to toxins.
Treatment Of Parkinson’s
Although Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, medications can help you control symptoms, often dramatically. In more advanced cases, surgery may be advised.
Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes such as aerobic exercise. In few cases, physical therapy that focuses on balance and stretching is essential. Also, a speech-language pathologist may help you improve speech problems.
Medications may help you handle problems with tremors, walking, and movement. People with Parkinson’s disease usually have low brain dopamine concentrations. But, dopamine cannot be given directly, as it cannot enter your brain. These medications increase or substitute the levels of dopamine in your system.
Medications your doctor may prescribe include:
- Carbidopa-levodopa: Levodopa is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine. It is the most powerful Parkinson’s disease medication.
- Inhaled carbidopa-levodopa: Levodopa but in inhaled form. It helps manage symptoms when oral medications suddenly stop working.
- Dopamine Antagonist: Dopamine antagonists don’t change into dopamine; they mimic dopamine effects in your brain. They include Pramipexole, Ropinirole, and Rotigotine.
- MAO B inhibitors: It helps prevent brain dopamine breakdown by restraining the brain enzyme monoamine oxidase B(MAO B).
If medicine doesn’t work well, doctors may suggest Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). In DBS, the doctor implants electrodes deep in the brain, and the device delivers electrical pulses. Those pulses can help control tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Your doctor may adjust the settings of those electrical pulses as necessary to treat your condition. However, surgery involves risks such as infections, strokes, or brain hemorrhage.
Although there is no cure or compelling evidence to prevent Parkinson’s disease, scientists are working hard in understanding Parkinson’s to learn more about the condition and find ways to manage it better.
Currently, you and your healthcare team should be focused on the medical management of your symptoms along with general health and lifestyle improvement [Exercise, Healthy Eating, and Improved Sleep]. Similarly, you should also focus on purchasing a comprehensive healthcare plan like Plum that can help you with medical expenses in times of need.
By identifying symptoms and adjusting the course of action based on changes in symptoms, most people with Parkinson’s disease can live fulfilling lives.