Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a medical condition and a nervous system disorder that is associated with movements of the body. The disease is chronic and progresses slowly and gradually, causing the symptoms to slowly worsen with time. Parkinson’s disease is a rather common disease that affects a large number of people.
According to statistics almost one million people are living with the disease in US alone. Being diagnosed with this disease is a bad news, primarily because the medical science neither knows the root cause due to which the disease occurs and nor does it have a cure to treat or delay the disease. The relief however that is there are a number of options both in terms of medications and surgical to treat the symptoms associated with the disease.
The Parkinson’s disease causes impairment in the nerve cells situated men the brain and causes them to die. The main region in the brain where the neurons are affected by Parkinson’s disease is known as the substantia nigra. The neurons produce a chemical in the brain which is called dopamine. This chemical is responsible for communicating with the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination in the body.
Parkinson’s disease with its slow and gradual development reduces the amount of dopamine that the brain produces, which in turn causes imbalance in the body also resulting in unsteady bodily movements. It is one of the most common diseases associated with the brain and is found in a large number of people.
Each year close to 60,000 cases are reported to be detected while a number of them even go undetected. Across the globe roughly 10 million people are known to be living with Parkinson’s disease. Men are more likely to be detected with the disease as compared to women. Although the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are normally seen with age, but certain cases may be detected younger even before 50 years of age.
What Causes Parkinson’s?
A lot of research and intensive study is being put into the subject of Parkinson’s disease, however till today the cause of Parkinson’s disease are not known. A number of scientists have researchers have attributed certain genetic factors in combination with environmental facts to be causing the disease. The genetics and environmental triggers vary from person to person.
In a number of cases, genetics is known to be an important factor while in others factors like other diseases, environment or any such other events may cause risk of acquiring Parkinson’s disease. Ageing however is one of the most crucial reasons of acquiring Parkinson’s debase as the risk of the disease is about 2-4 percent in people above 60 years of age, compared to about one to two percent as in the case of others.
The triggers that cause the death of the cell neutrons in dopamine neurons, is a being studied by researchers and scientists. A number of people believe that it is not just one factor but a number of events or factors that come together to cause the death of dopamine cells. Researchers believe by understanding these combining events and factors perhaps the disease could stop from occurring.
Primary Symptoms That Help in Diagnosing Parkinson’s
The signs and symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease differ from one person to another. In some cases the symptoms may be so mild that they care barely be noticed. These are normally the early signs which are often left undiagnosed and eventually lead to deterioration of the condition.
Symptoms are often seen in one side of the body and worsen the functioning of that side in the long run. Even if the symptoms are later seen on both the sides, the one affected side continues to worsen more. Some of the primary symptoms that help in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease include:
- Tremors or shaking: A Parkinson’s patient has this as one of the early signs of the disease which is seen at the onset of the disease. The shaking and tremors first start at the limbs, hands or fingers. One can notice a weird movement where in the thumb and forefinger goes back and forth which is known as pin-rolling tremors. The tremors in the hand are largely fended when the hand is in a relaxed state.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia): With time the primary effect of Parkinson’s disease is felt in the ability of movement of an individual. Simple and routine tasks become difficult to perform. Steps while walking become shorter and the limb movements begin to get affected. One may even find it tough to get in and out of a chair from the sitting position. Since the movements are largely restricted, one may feel like they are dragging the feet while walking rather than lifting each feet and walking.
- Muscle stiffness: This could occur in one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body. The stiff muscles can restrict movement by limiting the motion and causing pain.
- Loss of posture and balance: As the disease progresses, one can feel a sudden loss of balance. The body posture may not seem right. But it is not conscious as due to the disease the patients are not able to hold the body straight.
- Loss of natural movements: Walking, smiling, and blinking are all considered natural movements of the body. In this disease, the patient is unable to perform even these natural and subconscious movements.
- Problem while talking: One may experience certain changes and problems related to talking and speaking. There could be changes associated with speech as one begins to talk rather softly, with a slur or too fast. The speech may be monotonous without natural changes in tone that occur in normal people subconsciously.
- Inability to write: There are changes felt that could be associated with writing. Due to restricted movements and tremors in the hands, patients may be unable to write clearly. Besides what they write may be actually smaller than what they think.
Complications in Parkinson’s Disease Condition Can Impact Quality of Life
Like many other diseases, Parkinson’s disease comes with its share of complications. The other complicated issues can be treated individually to improve quality of living. Some of the complications that are associated with the Parkinson’s disease include:
- Difficulty in thinking: Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience cognitive issues associated with dementia. They find thinking difficult towards the later stages of the disease. These problems can rarely be rectified with medications.
- Emotional changes: People suffering from the Parkinson’s disease are prone to being affected by Understanding the depression can help in managing the symptoms. Also, the depression symptoms can be handled easier as one receives medication and treatment for the same.
- Other emotional change like fear and anxiety are normally felt in this disease. Again medications and continuous treatment can help in treating these symptoms.
- Difficulty in swallowing: As the condition progresses, one may have problems like swallowing food or even water. Drooling can result due to the saliva accumulating in the mouth as the swallowing capacity reduces.
- Insomnia or sleep disorders: Patients may find it difficult to sleep well at night and may indulge in a lot of day time sleeping. They may also have some dreams and hallucinations that cause disturbed sleep.
- Behavioral disorders: Behavioral disorders are commonly seen in Parkinson’s patients that can lead them to behave in abnormal manner. Their sleep disorders and hallucinations may cause them to act or behave in a specific manner. Medications can be prescribed by treating doctors to help the patients sleep well and tackle their sleep problems.
- Bladder Intolerance: A person suffering from the Parkinson’s disease may also suffer from bladder intolerance that includes inability to control urine or having pain or trouble in urinating.
- Constipation: Parkinson’s disease slows down the body in general. Some slowed movements are external while some are internal. As the body movement slow, the digestive tract may also slow down and could result in severe constipation.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help in Better Management of the Disease
Parkinson’s disease can be life changing and dealing with the disease can be difficult for not only the patient but also the ones caring for the patient. The fact that the disease has no definite cure can be very devastating for a number of patients and that brings about a feeling of sickness in the patients. Once the patients have been diagnosed with the disease, they need to be in close touch with the doctor for getting relief on the various symptoms experienced. With the doctor the family and the patient’s family should work out the best treatment path that may suit all. While the treatment is on one side, there are a few lifestyle modifications that can be incorporated for better management of the disease.
Healthy eating: Although food may have little or no relation with treating Parkinson’s disease, there are certain foods which may help in relieving some symptoms associated with the disease. Foods that are rich in fibre and drinking lot of fluids can help in alleviating constipation for patients. Also eating a balanced diet helps in ensuring the patients get adequate nourishment that may delay other diseases from affecting the patient.
Exercise: Who does not the benefits of regular exercising? Exercising can help the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease particularly those related to movement from worsening. It is best to work close with a therapist so you do not over exert or strain your body. Swimming, yoga, walking are known to relax the mind and body that can help patients feel better with symptoms like depression.
Everyday activities: With slowed movement and loss of balance, doing everyday activities can be difficult for the Parkinson’s patient. Seek help from your doctor or caregiver to help yourself be as independent as possible. Of course when there is a point that you need some help to carry out with everyday functions, don’t shy away from seeking some.
Alternative therapies: Therapies like massage, acupuncture, Tai chi are known to help the patients relax. Acupuncture can be extremely helpful in relieving symptoms of pain.
Dealing with the Parkinson’s disease is never easy, but patience, love and care can improve the quality of life for the patient. Besides, family support can instill confidence also in the patient to try and fight the disease and lead a normal life to whatever extent he can.