Parkinson's Disease: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a long-term, progressive nervous system disorder. It happens when nerve cells in the brain that control movement begin to die, produce insufficient dopamine (a brain chemical), and cause changes in how you move, feel, and act.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms start gradually, including muscle rigidity, tremors, stiffness or slowing of movement, and changes of the way you talk and walk. Over time, other symptoms develop, and some people will have dementia. Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medical and surgical treatments might significantly improve your symptoms.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation reports that PD affects about 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 4 million people worldwide. Each year, about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD in the U.S. solely.

Causes

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors seem to be relevant.

  • low dopamine levels

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, helps to send messages to the part of the brain responsible for controlling movement. When the brain cells that produce dopamine begin to die, PD symptoms occur and worsen.

  • Low norepinephrine levels

Norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter, plays a key role to many automatic body functions. When the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine die, people with PD will also have nonmotor symptoms, such as fatigue and constipation

  • Genes

Specific genetic mutations may lead to Parkinson’s disease in rare cases with corresponding family history. And scientists suspect that a combination for genetic and environmental factors may lead to the condition.

  • Environmental triggers.

Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.

  • Lewy bodies

Lewy bodies, clumps of protein in the brain, are also linked with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Autoimmune factors

Researchers have found evidence of a possible genetic link between PD and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms

Parkinson’s common motor symptoms may include:

  • Tremors or shaking in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Rigidity or stiffness in any part of your body.
  • Trouble with movement
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Difficulty with speech and writing

Other nonmotor symptoms may include:

  • Poor sense of smell
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

Steps in diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease include:

  • A review of your symptoms and medical history
  • A neurological and physical examination
  • A dopamine transporter (DAT) scan
  • Imaging tests such as MRI, CT, ultrasound of the brain, and PET scans
  • Autonomic tests and sphincter electromyography
  • Psychometric tests
  • Lab tests such as blood tests

Treatment

Currently, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and the goal of treatment is to help relieve your symptoms. These treatments include:

Medications

Three main types of medication are commonly used:

Surgical procedures

This type of treatment is only suitable for some people. Deep brain stimulation is the most common surgery offered to people with advanced Parkinson’s disease.

Supportive therapies

There are several therapies that can make living with Parkinson’s disease easier.

  • Physiotherapy

A physiotherapist can relieve your muscle stiffness and joint pain through movement and exercise.

  • Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist can identify difficulties in your daily life â€“ for example, dressing yourself or getting to the local shops.

  • Speech and language therapy

A speech and language therapist can teach your speaking and swallowing exercises with assistive technology.

  • Diet changes

There are many changes you can make in your diet, including increase the amount of fiber, salt, drink enough fluid, and eat small, frequent meals.

Latest

Jul 24, 2019

A new study led by the University of Kent, School of Psychology has shown that gentle, controlled stimulation of the ear canal can help reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The stimulation therapy was performed at home using a portable headset produced exclusively for clinical investigations by Scion Neurostim, a US-based device company. It aims to gentlely, non-invasively stimulate the balance organs. Participants continued to take their regular dopamine replacement therapy while using the device.

Participants reported greater movement and mobility, and showed improvements in decision-making, attention, memory, mood, and sleep. Participants also said that by the end of the study, they found it easier to perform everyday activities by themselves.


Keywords: Parkinson’s disease

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.