Parkinson’s disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 7 – 10 million people worldwide, have Parkinson’s disease with men having a 1.5 more likelihood to get the disease compared to women.
11th April is World Parkinson’s Day and one of the challenges encountered in helping people with the disease is the lack of awareness which is what this article focuses on.
Do you know what Parkinson’s disease is?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease that affects a person’s quality of life, social interaction and their financial condition. It is characterized by:
- Difficulty walking
- Slowed movement making it difficult to perform simple tasks
- Muscle stiffness
- Changes in speech and writing
- Tremor that starts in a limb, usually the hand or finger
- Loss of automatic movements like blinking and smiling
- Impaired posture and balance
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
This disease occurs when nerve cells or neurons in a certain area of the brain that controls movement die or become impaired. When there is a loss of neurons which produce dopamine, a chemical messenger, dopamine levels decrease causing abnormal brain activity.
Even though the exact cause of the disease is unknown, some risk factors include:
- Age: Parkinson’s disease is rare among young adults, and it mostly affects middle aged and older people from around 60 years and above.
- Genes: Although rare, certain genetic mutations in families where many family members are affected by the disease, genes can play a role in causing this disease.
- Gender: As earlier stated, the disease is more common among men than women.
- Environmental triggers: Exposure to toxins such as pesticides and herbicides can increase the risk of this disease.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease can cause symptoms similar to those of other disorders. As there is no specific test to diagnose the disease, a doctor or specialist can diagnose Parkinson’s based on an individual’s medical history, reviewing their signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination.
A doctor can, however, order the following tests:
Imaging tests like brain ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans to rule out any other disorders that could be causing symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.
Treatment of Parkinson’s disease
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there are ways to manage it by controlling its symptoms. Some of the ways to control this disease are through:
- Medications: Medicines such as dopamine agonists, amantadine and anticholinergics are used to mimic dopamine effects in the brain, provide temporary relief for symptoms like hallucinations and tremors.
- Surgery: In deep brain stimulation, electrodes are implanted into specific parts of the brain and connected to a generator implanted in the chest near the collarbone which sends electrical pulses to the brain and can reduce symptoms of the disease. This treatment, however, is mostly offered to patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease who do not have a stable response to medication.
- Lifestyle changes: Eating healthy foods that provide nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids is beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease. Exercising can help increase muscle flexibility and balance as well as reduce depression and anxiety.
Can Parkinson’s be prevented?
Since there are no exact known causes for this disease, prevention is also difficult. However, you can reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by living a healthy life, by:
- Eexercising regularly including regular aerobics,
- Eating healthy foods (more vegetables and fruits),
- Incorporating omega 3 fatty acids into your diet,
- Getting enough vitamin D, and
- Avoiding exposure to toxins.
Parkinson’s disease is nothing to be ashamed of, and there are specialists who can help you or our loved one to have better life quality in spite of the condition. Contact International Medical Treatment Ltd (IMT) today to find out how we can help.