Its types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease or Parkinsonism is degenerative disease of the brain that causes tremors, particularly in the elderly. In this disorder of nervous system, there is an increasing effect on body movements. It may begin as a hardly noticeable tremor initially in just one hand and rapidly progress to severe shaking of hands, making it difficult to hold a glass in the hand. Though the disease is characterized by tremors, it may also cause slow movements or stiffness.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
The signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may differ in every patient. Some of the initial symptoms may be even unnoticeable. Often, only one side may be involved and show the symptoms. Even when symptoms affect both sides, they maybe more prominent on one side.
Some commonly seen symptoms are:
- Restricted movements: In the early stages, the face may appear expressionless or very fewer expressions. The arms may not swing while walking. There may be slurring or softening of speech. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as the condition progresses over time.
- Tremors: Shaking of one limb, mostly the hand or fingers begins first. Two most common symptoms are tremor of a hand at rest and back-and-forth rubbing of the thumb and forefinger, known as pill-rolling tremors.
- Bradykinesia or slowed movements: With time, there may be a reduction in the ability to move, accompanied with shortening of steps, dragging of feet and difficulty to get out of a chair.
- Rigidity of the muscles leading to stiffness and pain.
- Imbalance and posture impairment like stooping.
- Decreased automatic movements like smiling, blinking, and swinging of arms while walking.
- Difficulty in writing.
What are the risk factors of Parkinson’s disease?
Some factors that increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Advancing age: Generally people develop the disease around age 60 years or more.
- Strong family history with many members suffering from the disease.
- Gender: Men are more prone as compared to women.
- Prolonged exposure to chemicals and toxins.
What are the complications of Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease may also be associated with some more treatable conditions like:
- Forgetfulness, thinking difficulties, etc.
- Emotional disturbances and depression
- Problem in swallowing leading to drooling
- Disorders of sleep
- Difficulty in controlling urination and bladder problems
- Changes in blood pressure
- Longstanding tiredness
How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?
If you notice any symptom or have risk factors of Parkinson’s disease, consult a neurologist. Your neurologist will be able to diagnose Parkinson’s disease on the basis of:
- Thorough medical history
- A neurological and physical examination
- – Blood tests, if required, to rule out any other conditions leading to symptoms
- – Imaging tests like MRI, or CT scan, if required
- Sometimes, improvement with test doses of Parkinson’s medications is considered as a confirmation of disease.
Parkinson’s disease may sometimes require frequent visits and follow up with the neurologist for confirmation of diagnosis. Hence, patients are generally advised not to miss their appointments for follow up.
What is the treatment of Parkinson’s disease?
While it is not always possible to completely cure the Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms can be well managed. Lifestyle changes like regular aerobic exercise, physical therapy for balance, and stretching is also recommended. Speech therapy may also be helpful in addressing speech problems.
There are two modes to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, namely:
- Medications to manage problems like difficulty in walking, movement or tremors
- Surgical procedure:
- – Deep brain stimulation (DBS): In this procedure, electrodes are implanted surgically in specific areas of the brain under local anaesthesia. A generator implanted in the chest near the collarbone generates and transmits electrical pulses to the brain. These electrical impulses help to reduce the Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Considering the side effects and risk of complications with DBS, it is generally advised only in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease and inadequate response to medication.
- Mayo Clinic. Parkinson’s Disease. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376062. Accessed on 4th January
- University of California San Francisco. Living With Parkinson’s Disease. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/living_with_parkinsons_disease/. Accessed on 4th January 2018.
- Parkinson’s Foundation. Understanding Parkinson’s. Available at: parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/. Accessed on 4th January 2018.
- PubMed Health. Parkinson Disease. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024544/. Accessed on 4th January 2018.
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