What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson’s disease is the deterioration of brain nerves that control movement. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease have a slow onset and get worse over time. You may experience a gradual onset of symptoms, or notice several changes all at once.
- Change in handwriting – specifically smaller handwriting
- Loss of smell
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stiff movements when walking
- Changes in your tone of voice – specifically speaking more quietly
- Lack of facial expressions
- Dizziness and fainting
- Beginning to walk with a hunched back
It is important to keep in mind that medications and other medical conditions can cause symptoms similar to those listed above. But, if you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, it may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.
While there is not currently a cure for Parkinson’s disease, many treatment options are available that can help ease your symptoms. Treatments may include medicine, therapy, and even surgery. Each case of Parkinson’s disease is unique, and your treatment plan should be, too.
Causes of Parkinson's disease
The causes of Parkinson’s disease are still greatly unknown. Scientists who have studied this disorder estimate that 10-15% of cases come from genetics after seeing a series of genetic mutations that were common in Parkinson’s patients.
Doctors suspect that environmental factors and lifestyle choices may have effects on the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Exposure to chemicals like pesticides may increase the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, a good diet and regular exercise may decrease your chances.
Who can get it?
While anyone can develop Parkinson’s disease, age is the greatest factor in receiving a diagnosis. The average age of developing this disease is 60, and men are more likely to receive a diagnosis than women. Having a close relative, like a parent or sibling, who has Parkinson’s disease doubles your risk factor.
How do you know you have Parkinson’s disease?
There is no definitive way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor will ask questions about the onset of your symptoms and assess your movement to make referrals to specialists who can make a formal diagnosis.
You can expect to see a neurologist who can complete a neurologic examination. This may include brain imaging, an MRI, or a PET scan to see activity in the area of the brain typically affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Your doctor may also refer you to a movement disorder specialist. Seeing subspecialists is very important to avoid being misdiagnosed. Highly trained specialists can provide their expertise in specific areas of medicine where a precise diagnosis isn’t possible from blood work or another definitive test.
Treatments for Parkinson’s disease
Physical and occupational therapy is also a standard recommendation. Trained therapists can help you practice specific exercises and movements to strengthen your muscles and retrain your body to better control your movement.
You can also make improvements in your daily life to slow the onset of symptoms. This includes maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. Tai chi and yoga have both proven to encourage better balance and coordination for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Alternative therapies include massage, acupuncture, and taking supplements that are good for your brain, like CoQ10. While there are no definitive studies providing proof that these methods can improve your Parkinson’s disease symptoms, many people do report seeing results.
Talk to your doctor about your specific symptoms and how they are impacting your day-to-day life. Together, you can develop a plan for improving your quality of life with Parkinson’s disease. With early detection and a robust treatment plan, it is possible to alleviate and slow down the onset of symptoms.
Possible side effects of treatment
As with any medicine you take, there may be side effects associated with something you take. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and assess the possibility of additional complications.
Some side effects of Parkinson’s medication include:
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American Parkinson Disease Association: “DIAGNOSING PARKINSON’S.”
American Parkinson Disease Association: “TREATMENT & MEDICATION.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “6 Medication-Free Ways to Feel Better with Parkinson's Disease.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “Parkinson’s Disease Risk Factors and Causes.
Parkinson’s Foundation: “10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease.”
Parkinson’s Foundation: “Causes.”
Parkinson’s Victoria: “MEDICATIONS.”