What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by damage to a part of the brain called the substantia nigra and results in dopamine depletion. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating movement and emotional responses. Parkinson’s disease symptoms start to develop when levels of dopamine are reduced by over 70%. There are a wide variety of symptoms that result including stiff movement, resting tremors, and depression.
The most common initial Parkinson’s disease treatment is Sinemet, which is a combination of Levodopa (L-Dopa) and Carbadopa (decarboxylase inhibitor). Typically Sinemet can ward off symptoms for only a few years before it stops working. There, however, are several treatments that can be used in addition to medication that can help maximize it’s effectiveness and reduce the damaging side effects.
Over the past several years there have been large advances in the understanding of Parkinson’s Disease. Due to this increase in knowledge of Parkinson’s Disease, there is also increased awareness that Parkinson’s Disease is more complex than previously thought. There is a need for much more research and understanding. Parkinson’s disease does not present the same for everyone. Therefore, there is a need for an individualized approach to treatment.
Who does Parkinson’s disease affect?
Parkinson’s Disease is estimated to affect approximately 1.5 million people in the United States alone. Typically this disease affects people over the age of 50, yet the incidence of those affected younger than 50 is rising. It affects more often males than females and statistically, 1 in 15 males over the age of 45 living in the United States will develop Parkinson’s Disease in his lifetime.
Parkinson’s Disease Risk Factors
There have been several studies that have posed different theories to risk factors for the development of Parkinson’s Disease. Several studies indicate that environmental toxins contribute to damage of certain neurons in the brain resulting in Parkinson’s. Several studies link pesticides in particular to an increased risk in the development of Parkinson’s disease. One recent study found that there was a greater than 50% increase risk in the development of Parkinson’s when exposed to fungicide benomyl. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3545765/pdf/pnas.201220399.pdf. The exact relationship between the exposure to environmental toxins and the development of the neurological disease is unknown. At our Parkinson’s clinic, we implement the latest research to address the symptoms.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
There are several different types of symptoms that are associated with Parkinson’s Disease. People can experience a combination of different symptoms, some more severe than others.
Loss of smell:
An early sign of PD is the inability to smell things as strongly. Normally smell can fluctuate due to cold or sinus congestion, but if loss of smell occurs with no perceived reason, this could be a sign of early Parkinson’s Disease
If you strain to move your bowels on a chronic basis, this could be a sign of early Parkinson’s. Constipation can have a wide variety of different causes so it is important that this is evaluated by a medical professional.
The masked face is when the face does not exhibit the same facial expression as others, meaning that the face appears with the same expression even when one is happy, sad, excited or upset. Although a masked face can be due to certain medications, it is also an early sign of Parkinson’s Disease.
If you notice that the letters you write are smaller and the words are more crowded together, this could be a sign of early Parkinson’s. There are, however, other causes of changes in handwriting including arthritis in the hand among other things.
A common early symptom of Parkinson’s Disease is a small tremor of the hand, finger, or thumb while at rest. There are several other causes of a resting tremor so it is important to get a medical professional to evaluate your symptoms if you suspect Parkinson’s Disease.
- Resting tremor
- Action Tremor
- Muscular Rigidity
- Postural Instability
- Decreased Facial Expression
- Slurred Speach
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Stooped Posture
- Shuffling Gate
- Mood Disorder
- Cognitive Changes
- Hallucinations and Delusions
- Urinary problems
- Sleep disorders
Parkinson’s Disease Course
Once a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the rate of progression of the disease is difficult to determine. It seems that some patients progress much slower while others progress much more quickly. Inflammation and immune responses have been two categories that seem to play a key role in the progression of this neurodegenerative disease. There have been antibodies found against proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease that enforces the idea that immune dis-regulation contributes to the course of Parkinson’s Disease. Based on this, decreasing inflammation and balancing the immune system can help slow the progression of the disease.