14 Jun Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder. This means the disease will last for a long period of time and symptoms will continue to worsen. The condition causes shaking, stiffness, and difficulty in walking, balance, and coordination. The risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease increases as we grow older with the average age of onset 60 years old. Men have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing the disease than women. Approximately one million people in the United States are affected by the disease.
Parkinson’s Disease adversely affects neurons in the brain by decreasing the amount of dopamine–an important chemical which affects movement and coordination.
According to the National Institute of Health there are four main symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head;
- Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk;
- Slowness of movement;
- Unstable posture, or impaired balance and coordination.
Additionally, the disease can cause mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory issues, and fatigue. Patients may also exhibit “facial masking” or a blank expression/stare. Since the face is one of our main methods of communication, this may be a difficult symptom for family members to accept and understand.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease can be a challenge since no specific test exists to diagnosis the condition. A neurologist can usually make a diagnosis after conducting a variety of other blood and imaging tests to rule out other conditions. Often, it may take a period of time before a definitive answer can be given to a patient.
While there is no cure, a number of medications are available to help patients manage the disease. They may also significantly improve symptoms although those results may become less over time. Carbidopa-Levodopa is the most effective and commonly used combination of drugs used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Depending on where a patient is in the disease process, there are different surgical techniques available. These include deep brain stimulation, and a surgery to insert a tube in the small intestine to deliver medication.
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