Parkinson's disease refers to a progressive nervous system disorder that primarily affects the ability to control movement and motor skills. Symptoms often start gradually, with trembling hands, stiffness, or slowing movement.
Early stages of Parkinson's Disease include showing little to no facial expressions, soft or slurred speech, and the inability to swing the arms as the affected individual walks. These symptoms tend to worsen over time as the condition progresses.
Though there is no cure for this disease, there are existing medications that might greatly improve symptoms.
Symptoms of Parkinson's Disorder
There are a few different types of Parkinson's disorders. Symptoms vary depending on the type, but all forms tend to develop slowly. Symptoms include:
Tremors: Tremors or shaking in one or both hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face. Tremors or shaking most often begin with a limb, in areas such as a hand or finger. Rubbing the thumb and forefinger back and forth, known as pill-rolling tremors, is another indication. Hands may tremble even while they are at rest.
Slowed Movements (bradykinesia): Slowed movements, also known as bradykinesia, and difficulties moving limbs are also common signs of Parkinson's disease. This might make simple tasks incredibly time-consuming and frustrating. An individual's steps may become shorter as they walk, or they may drag their feet while walking. It may become difficult to get up from chairs or sitting positions.
Changes in Speech: An individual suffering from Parkinson's disease may notice a change in speech, such as speaking softly, slurring, speaking quickly, or hesitating before speaking.
Loss of Automatic Movements: There may be a decreased ability to perform movements such as smiling, blinking, or swinging the arms while walking.
Stiff Muscles: Rigid muscles may occur in any area of the body. Stiff muscles may be painful at times and limit normal range of motions.
Difficulty with Balance, Coordination, and Posture: An individual suffering from Parkinson's disorder may become disorientated, notice stooped posture, or have trouble maintaining their balance.
Changes in Writing: Individuals suffering from this disorder may notice difficulty in writing or their handwriting becoming smaller.
Cognitive difficulties such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating
Parkinson's Symptoms in Women: Though Parkinson's disease is commonly thought of as a man's illness, women may also suffer from this condition. Symptoms tend to develop slowly and progress less quickly than typical male symptoms. Symptoms among women do not always match up with men who have the same strain of the disorder. Symptoms of Parkinson's disease in women may include a slower initial progression of symptoms, tremor that starts in the upper body instead of the hands, and a lack of response to medications compared with men who have the same strain of the disorder. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose Parkinson's disease in women due to this symptom overlap with other diseases such as multiple sclerosis or dystonia.
Other symptoms: Depression and anxiety, difficulty chewing and swallowing, constipation, skin problems such as dandruff, loss of smell, sleep disturbances, restless leg syndrome, and low blood pressure.
As time goes on, these symptoms will worsen and become harder to manage. Depending on the severity of the condition and how quickly it progresses, an individual might need help with daily tasks such as getting dressed, eating, or using the bathroom.
Causes of Parkinson's Disease
The exact cause is unknown, but there are possible factors that might be involved in the development of Parkinson's disease.
Genetics: There may be a genetic link to developing Parkinson's disorder. If an immediate family member has this condition or another progressive neurological disorder such as multiple sclerosis, it is likely they will inherit some of those genes and therefore pass them down to their own children. Though it is not guaranteed, they may develop one of these disorders or another related disorder later on in life.
Environment: Exposure to certain environmental toxins such as pesticides and herbicides (chemicals used to kill weeds) may increase the risk for developing Parkinson's disease, especially with long-term exposure, over many years. Though research is ongoing, studies suggest these chemicals might contribute to the death of neurons in the brain, which could result in Parkinson's disease.
Illness/Infection: Illnesses such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or infections like neurosyphilis (a sexually transmitted disease involving complications with mental health) may cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's disorder. Individuals who have suffered strokes may also develop issues that mimic what is seen in Parkinson's disease.
Unhealthy Lifestyle: Various unhealthy lifestyle choices may put an individual at greater risk for developing Parkinson's disease. These include smoking cigarettes, alcohol abuse, and obesity.
Brain Trauma: Brain trauma caused by accidents or injuries may increase the risk of developing this condition. Though rare, it is one of the leading causes.
Lifestyle changes that might ease the pain associated with Parkinson's disease include what one puts into their body through what they eat and drink as well as what medications are taken to help ease discomfort caused by this condition.
Medical Cannabis may be used to help alleviate suffering from tics or involuntary spasms/movements commonly seen in those suffering from Tourette syndrome or tardive dyskinesia which is a side effect of antipsychotic drugs.
Individuals with Parkinson's disease may find relief from what is consumed including what goes into the body through what one eats and drinks as well as what medications are taken.
The treatment for Parkinson's disease varies depending on the individual and what symptoms they experience. No matter what, it will involve taking some type of medication that helps control those tremors, stiffness, and slowed movement associated with this condition.
There are several different types of medication that might be prescribed by a doctor such as Levodopa (L-DOPA), dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, COMT inhibitors, catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme inhibitor, selegiline, monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitor.
Types of Parkinson's Disease
There are a few different types of Parkinson's disorder. Some types of Parkinson's disease stem from a family history. The different types of Parkinson's disease are:
Idiopathic Parkinson's Disease: this type of Parkinson's disease is the most common cause of parkinsonism. The general onset age ranges between 55 to 65 but rarely occurs before the age of 50.
Juvenile and young-onset Parkinson's Disease: This type of Parkinson's disease is rare, onsetting before the age of 21. Young-onset Parkinson's refers to any type of Parkinson's disease that develops before the age of 40. A study performed in 2017 on 108 people with this type of Parkinson's disease found that 46% had a family history.
Drug-induced Parkinsonism: This type of Parkinson's disease is the second most common. Usually caused by long-term use or withdrawal from levodopa or dopamine agonists medications. Other drugs that may lead to drug-induced parkinsonism include antipsychotics, antidepressants, calcium, channel antagonists, gastrointestinal prokinetics, and antiepileptic drugs.
Multiple System Atrophy: This is a rare disorder that has similar symptoms to those with Parkinson's. It often onsets individuals in their mid-50s, leading to changes in their heart rate, blood pressure, bladder control, and digestion.
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP): Symptoms usually develop after 50 to 60 years old, and cause issues with walking, swallowing, balance, eye movement, speech, and mental ability. This type also tends to progress more rapidly than Parkinson's disease.
Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD): Usually caused by a buildup of a protein named tau in the brain. Symptoms tend to begin between the ages of 50-70.
Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia: Patients will initially show signs of dementia. If they do not have dementia, their symptoms may resemble Parkinson's disease. This disease is often caused by the abnormal buildup of the protein called Lewy bodies in the brain. The typical onset age is after 50 and affects men more than women.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: This refers to the buildup of cerebral fluid in the brain cavities, which may put pressure on the brain and cause damage leading to parkinsonism. This type of Parkinson's disease is commonly seen in adults over the age of 65.
Vascular Parkinsonism: Usually caused by a series of small strokes that damage the area of the brain that controls movement.
Ataxia with Vitamin E Deficiency: Usually caused by a lack of vitamin E in the system.
Postencephalitic Parkinsonism: Symptoms typically develop after encephalitis, a viral infection that causes swelling in the brain.
Preventing Parkison's Disease
Preventing Parkinson's disease is a complicated subject. While there are no official ways to prevent Parkinson's disease, there are some things to do to lower the chances of developing the disorder. Preventing Parkinson's begins with stopping smoking and staying at a healthy weight.
Staying active is also good for preventing neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson's disease. This includes minimizing stress levels by exercising regularly, eating well, getting enough sleep, doing meditation or yoga two to three times a week, having fun activities that make the individual laugh -- basically anything that helps keep life interesting and puts the person in control.
Another important step is reducing the intake of saturated fats found in animal products. This helps slow cognitive decline.
If an individual has a family history of the disorder, it would be wise to get genetic testing. Preventing Parkinson's disease may also include taking supplements, vitamins, or drugs known to lower the risk of developing the condition.