Managing Parkinson's Disease

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease affects the nervous system. It is a progressive illness that develops over time. The disease in itself is not life threatening, however it can have a disabling impact on the sufferer and their families.

There are a wide range of symptoms for Parkinson's Disease.

The major symptoms include:

  • rigid or stiff muscles
  • problems with balance and walking
  • trembling or shaking
  • bradykinesia, which means slow movements and difficulty adjusting to positions
  • akinesia, which means no movement or very limited movement

Trembling is the symptom most associated with Parkison's Disease. However, a small percentage of patients do not develop the tremor. There are two types of tremors. Most patients experience trembling when they are resting. Some patients also experience tremors when trying to move.

Minor symptoms

There are a wide range of symptoms. Not everyone with Parkinson's Disease will have them. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, dribbling, a loss of facial expression, a low spoken voice, reduced manual dexterity and difficulty with handwriting, dementia, constipation and depression. Some of this symptoms are also side effects of the medication used to treat the disease. The sources I have read vary, but indicate dementia affects approximately 15 - 25 % of Parkinson's Disease patients.

The disease is more common in the older age bracket. A diagnosis before the age of 40 is called young-onset Parkinson's Disease.

Causes and treatment of Parkinson's Disease

There is no known definitive cause of what triggers Parkinson's Disease. Doctors know that sufferers have a gradual loss of particular nerve cells in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamime affects our ability to perform motor skills and mental concentration or focus. It is the loss of dopamime that produce the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

More information about the role of dopamime can be found on this link: http://chronicfatigue.about.com/b/2008/07/31/the-role-of-dopamine-in-your-brain.htm

There are a range of different theories about what causes the degeneration of the brain cells that lead to Parkinson's Disease. It does not appear to be a genetic disease.

Theories include exposure to viruses or toxins. It does not appear to be a disease caused by dietary factors. Information about possible triggers for Parkinson's Disease and potential treatments can be found here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030153020.htm

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1831191-treatment

Unfortunately there is no known cure for Parkinson's Disease. However, symptoms can be managed.

Modern medical treatment of Parkinson's Disease aims to alleviate symptoms by artificially replacing dopamime levels in the patient. This is done through a series of regular drug treatments. Dosage levels will be altered according to the side effects of the treatment and the progression of symptoms.

The most common treatment is a medication called Levodopa. It is most effective for the first five years of treatment. However it does have side effects such as nausea. It also becomes less effective with time.There are other medications used to treat the disease, which have varying levels of effectiveness and side effects.

In some cases surgical intervention is also used to treat the disease. However, the surgery does have risks and side effects so it is usually not the preferred method of treatment.

Progression of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive disease. Many patients find the initial diagnosis to be a traumatic time. They and their families have to adjust to the fact that they have a progressive disease, that will worsen over time.

Many Parkinson's Disease sufferers can become anxious, stressed or depressed. Sufferers gradually become less mobile and independent. Consequently, as the disease progresses, they become less confident in interacting with the 'outside world'. Anxiety can be heightened because often the disease causes couples to undertake a gradual role reversal. Ofter partners have to undertake tasks that were previously undertaken by the person with Parkinson's Disease. The progression of the disease also puts mental and physical pressure on the spouse who has to care for the sufferer.

Management of Parkinson's Disease

In the inital stages of Parkinson's Disease sufferers are able to go about their daily lives with the help of medication.

As the disease progressively worsens, it has a more disabling effect. Sufferers can also become very tired. Consequently many sufferers of Parkinson's Disease need to move in with family members or into care as they become more debilitated.

There aer various therapies that can help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. These include speech and language therapists, dieticians and physical therapy. There are also various Parkinson's Disease support groups. Many of the various Parkinson's Disease organisations can refer patients to these therapists. Patients may not necessarily be referred to these therapies by their doctor, so it can be useful for patients to contact local support organisations.

References

The various web links above were useful in providing information for this hub. The following were also used:

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/parkinson.htm

Jahanshahi, Marjan M.D. and Marsden, David M.D "Parkinson's Disease A self-help guide" Demos Medical Publishing, New York, 2000

http://chronicfatigue.about.com/b/2008/07/31/the-role-of-dopamine-in-your-brain.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071030153020.htm

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1831191-treatment


Comments and useful links

I would welcome any useful comments about treatment, references or websites about Parkinson's Disease in this comments section.

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