Parkinson’s disease is a serious and fatal degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. As a result it affects the body movements, speech and other functions. There is no evidence that Parkinson’s disease is related to the genetic makeup of an individual.
The disease was first described by James Parkinson and was later named after him. It is estimated that 6.3 million people suffer from this disease worldwide. Around 15% of sufferers are diagnosed with this disease when they are under of 40 years of age. As age increases the chances of getting Parkinson’s disease also increases. There are slightly more men who suffer from this disease then women. Parkinson’s disease however is not fatal.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and the symptoms get worse as time goes on due to the continued degeneration of the nerve cells located in the middle region of the brain. The resulting effect is a dopamine deficiency, which is important for controlled movements of the body.
Parkinson’s disease is an incurable disease and at present there is no known cause. However there is extensive research worldwide to try and find a cause and a cure. Possible causes being investigated include pesticides, toxins, chemicals, genetic factors and head trauma.
There is no specific test to detect Parkinson’s disease, making it difficult to know that you have the disease. However, there are many symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The most common and visible one is tremors, usually occurring when limbs are at rest. Sufferers could also be rigid due to muscle and joint stiffness, and have other movement difficulties. Sleep, speech and handwriting can also be affected and sufferers may also have a stooped posture and an inability to balance themselves. Sufferers could also feel fatigued, lethargic and reflexes could reduce dramatically.
Although not curable, Parkinson’s disease symptoms can be managed using medication. Medications are classified into various categories depending on the function they perform. Common categories of medications include dopamine replacement therapy, dopamine agonists, COMT enzyme inhibitions and anticholinergics.
It is necessary that you visit a neurologist if you want to consider taking medication. Due to the extensive range of symptoms, treatment for Parkinson’s disease is different for each person. Even people who exhibit the same symptoms may have varied treatments. Your medication and treatment will change as time goes on and as your symptoms change. Once you have been prescribed a medication it is important to ensure that you take them as prescribed.
Sufferers can also choose to have surgery. This option will not be made available for everyone, as the criteria to be considered for surgery is quite strict. The main types of surgery employed include thalamotomy, which involves cutting a section of the brain in an effort to reduce tremors; pallidotomy which also involves cutting a section of the brain in an effort to bring about a reduction in the wriggling movements; and deep brain stimulation which involves placing an electronic device (also known as a brain pacemaker) in the brain so as to control a specific symptom.
It can be very difficult to live with Parkinson’s disease. Sufferers usually require someone to look after them, especially as time goes on and the symptoms get worse. There are exercises that have proven to enhance the quality of life and independence. Exercising regularly can improve cardiovascular fitness, prevent joint deformity, improve joint mobility, improve coordination and balance, reduce cramping, and reduce stress.
Since there is no known cause of Parkinson’s, it is impossible to prevent this disease. However, recent research has shown that regular exercise may help to lower the risk of getting the disease. If you develop any symptoms of Parkinson’s, it is best to see your doctor immediately. They will be able to tailor a disease management plan that is right for you.
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