Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that mainly affects the motor system. Smooth and coordinated body movements are made possible by dopamine,a substance in the brain produced in the substantia nigra. When the cells of the substantia nigara start to die,dopamine levels reduce. When they drop 60 to 80 percent Parkinson’s symptoms begin to appear.
The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. It is however believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors. Some scientists believe that it can also be triggered by some viruses. There is also an increased risk in people exposed to certain pesticides and among those who have had prior head injuries.
The motor symptoms of the disease result from the death of cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain. The cause of this cell death is poorly understood, but it involves the build-up of proteins into Lewy bodies in the neurons.
- slowness of movement
- difficulty with walking
- decreased ability to smell (anosmia)
- stiffness in arms legs and trunk
- stooped posture
- lack of balance
- muffled speech
- decreased blinking
- spacing out
more advanced symptoms include
- problems with attention and memory
- sleep disturbances
There are currently no blood or laboratory tests to diagnose non genetic cases of Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and a neurological examination through methods such as neuroimaging and evaluation of signs and symptoms . Improvement after initiating medication is another important hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.
People with Parkinson’s-like symptoms that result from other causes are sometimes said to have parkinsonism. While these disorders initially may be misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s, certain medical tests, as well as response to drug treatment, may help to distinguish them from Parkinson’s.
There’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s.Treatment only aims to improve the symptoms.
Initial treatment is typically with the antiparkinson medication levodopa (L-DOPA), followed by dopamine agonists when levodopa becomes less effective. As the disease progresses and neurons continue to be lost, these medications become less effective while at the same time they produce a complication marked by involuntary writhing movements.
Diet and some forms of rehabilitation have shown some effectiveness at improving symptoms.
Surgery to place microelectrodes for deep brain stimulation has been used to reduce motor symptoms in severe cases where drugs are ineffective.
There is no concrete evidence for treatments for the non-movement-related symptoms of PD, such as sleep disturbances and emotional problems.
Doctors and researchers are unclear on how you can prevent the disease. Some research however suggests that life style factors such as physical exercise and diet rich in antioxidants hay have a protective effect.
Those with a history of Parkinson’s in the family may consider genetic testing. Certain genes have been connected to Parkinson’s. But it’s important to know that having these gene mutations does not mean you’ll definitely develop the disease.