What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

No one knows what causes Parkinson’s disease (PD) only that it results from the degeneration of those nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. A neurotransmitter, dopamine stimulates the nerve cells that control the muscles in the body.

When the production of dopamine decreases, movement control and coordination is lost. PD sets in around the age of 60 but by the time symptoms manifest themselves most patients would have lost around 80% of their dopamine-producing cells.

It is not fatal but it is progressively degenerative. Men are more likely to be affected than women and Caucasians more than other races.No theory about what causes PD has been proved; however, recent studies have suggested a genetic factor that may be influenced by environmental toxins.

It has been suggested that the inheritance in some families of the chromosome 4 gene could mean that a gene modification alone may cause PD in some people. Its measured development then may be activated by some other illness or environmental contaminant or a trauma of sorts. Accelerated aging and free radicals are also thought to cause PD.

The first symptom of PD is tremor in a limb, particularly while at rest, and begins on one side of the body. The other symptoms of PD are rigidity of limbs, a shuffling gait, and poor balance. PD patients show fewer facial expressions and speak in a soft voice. The disease also causes depression, dementia, and sleep disturbances.

PD can be diagnosed by a neurologist depending on the symptoms, as there is no test for the disease as such. The doctor will assess the severity of the symptoms and if he suspects PD then he will prescribe drugs to see how the patient responds.

A brain scan can also help a neurologist determine if a patient is suffering from PD or any other illness that is similar to it.

As far as the treatment for PD is concerned, there is no cure for this disease. Many patients are affected mildly and are not treated for a while after diagnosis.

Once the symptoms become severe, however, the physician may prescribe dopamine-replacing or dopamine level-affecting drugs. Brain surgery to reduce the symptoms is an option.

Tests are being made with brain surgery that transplants healthy tissue producing dopamine. Research is ongoing with regard to substances that could help prevent the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Some researchers say they believe that PD could lurk unobserved in many people with the ratio of known to unknown patients being as much as 1:20. Their contention is that most people, if they lived very long lives, could develop Parkinson’s.

Those who have been diagnosed with PD should continue with their routine daily activities and lead as normal a life as possible. Have an exercise program that includes some brisk walking.

Use canes if balancing is a problem and talk to a rehabilitation specialist about a proper exercise program. Have a high fiber diet and enough food at proper intervals. Also, try to avoid unnecessary stress in your life.

PD can be managed with a careful medical and personal program. So consult your neurologist and with proper medication you can continue with your regular activity level at a normal pace.

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