How much do you know about Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a chronic neurologic condition that was discovered in 1817 by a physician named Dr. James Parkinson. PD is a progressive disease, which causes a gradual loss of the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. Because dopamine carries signals to the part of the brain that control movement and coordination, decreased dopamine levels lead to the main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Parkinson’s symptoms usually begin gradually and get worse over time.
It is estimated that at least one million people in the United States currently suffer from Parkinson’s disease, and roughly six million worldwide. Parkinson’s disease is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as the most widespread neurodegenerative disease.
“Parkinson’s disease can be effectively managed with medication, lifestyle modifications, and in some cases surgery. Since motor symptoms of PD are caused by decreased dopamine levels in the brain, most medications are aimed at replenishing or mimicking the action of dopamine, and can be very effective in controlling the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Other types of medications are used to treat the non-motor symptoms. Patients benefit from taking an active role in their healthcare. Daily exercise, proper diet, and cognitive stimulation are very important aspects of the treatment regimen. In addition, taking steps to maintain mental well-being results in more effective management of the disease.”1
Early detection of PD is key to getting on the right medication and getting the most effective treatment to slow the effects, so it is always ideal to catch it early on and set up a health plan with your doctor as soon as possible.
Some initial signs of Parkinson’s Disease may look like:
- Tremors: Experiencing tremors in your fingers or with movement between your pointer finger and your thumb. You hand might also tremor while at rest.
- Changes in Writing: Your handwriting getting smaller or more cramped and writing becoming more difficult.
- Changes in Speech: People starting to notice that you are speaking more softly or loudly than you have previously, vocal hoarseness, or speaking in monotone sentences without the usual inflection.
- Changes in Walking: A more stooped posture or a harder time keeping your balance can both be early indicators of Parkinson’s.
- Trouble Moving: Muscle stiffness, rigidity, and a slowing of day to day movements that does not go away with increased movement. It could also look like a decrease in automatic movements such as blinking or moving your arms when you walk.
The most important thing that you and I can do is spread awareness about this disease to those around you. Feel free to share this blog link with someone else as a starting point!
For more information about Parkinson’s, check out these source articles: