Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s Disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing cells. Dopamine sends signals that help coordinate movements, thus Parkinson’s disease affects nerve cells in a part of the brain that controls muscle movement. About 50,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, usually affecting people over the age of 50, but in some cases it can affect people younger than 50. Early symptoms of the disorder are subtle and occur gradually; however, in some cases the disease will progress more rapidly and the symptoms will be very noticeable.

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown; however, it is suggested that genetic and environmental factors play a role. There are five genes that are associated with Parkinson’s disease: PARK7, SNCA, PARK2, PINK1 and LRRK2.

Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

  • Trembling hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Stiffness of the limbs
  • Bradykinesia
  • Postural instability
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Difficultly walking
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Difficulty sleeping and speaking

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may be difficult because there aren’t any blood tests or laboratory tests that are able to make the diagnosis. Often times brain scans and imaging studies are performed in order to rule out other diseases that may have similar symptoms to Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosing Parkinson’s is based on neurological exams and medical history. Usually the disease begins in one limb that may start to tremor, and then it gradually progresses. This may help in diagnosing someone with Parkinson’s if the doctor is able to see this.

Help and Treatment

There are no treatments that will cure Parkinson’s disease and there isn’t evidence to suggest that medicine will slow down progression. In early onset of Parkinson’s disease there is often no treatment necessary. There are medicines that are given to those who have more severe symptoms, which include selegiline, rasagiline and amantadine. Dopamine agonists may be given as well, but it is a very potent drug.

Establishing a routine exercise program has also shown to be beneficial for those who have the disease, regardless of the severity. There is currently no vitamins or herbal compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for Parkinson’s disease, but maintaining a nutritional diet that includes a great amount of fiber is often recommended. Luckily, there are many organizations conducting research on Parkinson’s disease. Scientists are working to develop new protective drugs that can delay, prevent, or reverse the disease.

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