Parkinson’s disease, or simply Parkinson’s, is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the body’s ability to control movement. It is caused by the loss of some essential nerve cells in the substantia nigra( a part of the brain). The nerve cells in the substantia nigra are the ones that produce a chemical called dopamine. This dopamine acts as a messenger between the nervous system and that part of the brain that helps control body movement. So, if these nerve cells get damaged or eventually die, dopamine level in the brain gets reduced, which is the leading cause of Parkinson’s.
Furthermore, the loss of nerve cells is a slow process, and people start to develop this disease when 60 to 75% of the nerve cells in the substantia nigra are damaged or dead. In addition, Parkinson’s disease usually starts out slowly and worsens over time. Sometimes it starts with a barely noticeable tremor in hand (the hands may not also swing when you walk). Besides that, speech becomes soft or slurred. As this disease worsens, you may have trouble sleeping and talking. Apart from that, mental and memory problems, behavioral changes, and other symptoms may develop.
In addition, tremors are generally common symptoms of this disease, resulting in stiffness or slowing of movement. In fact, experts find it hard to know why Parkison’s develops, but recent research concluded that genetic and environmental factors such as toxins play a role.
Who gets Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkison’s disease is very rare among children, teenagers, and young adults, but it’s commonly seen in people age 60 or above. However, this disease affects both men and women though about 50 % of men get this disease than women. In addition, about 70,000 new cases of Parkison’s diseases are diagnosed in the U.S per year.
Causes of Parkison’s Disease
The major cause of Parkinson’s Disease is still unknown, but scientists have managed to identify several factors that play a role, including:
- Genetic factor: Genetics appear to cause over 15% of all Parkinson’s Disease in the world. Over the years, experts have studied DNA from people with Parkison’s Disease comparing their genes. They discovered that gene mutations are linked to Parkison’s though they do not consider it a hereditary condition or disease.
- Low dopamine level: Low dopamine level in the brain is one of the major causes. This occurs when cells that produce dopamine in the brain are damaged or dead. Low dopamine level often makes it harder for people to control their movement and it affects coordination. As the dopamine level in the brain diminishes, the symptoms gradually become more severe.
- Low norepinephrine levels: Low levels of norepinephrine (the neurotransmitter contributing to blood circulation and automatic body functions) may increase the severity of the disease and its symptoms. This explains why most people with Parkison’s experience orthostatic hypotension.
- Lewy bodies: Lewy bodies are clumps of specific substances within the brain cells. Scientists believe that Lewy bodies are microscopic markers and play an important role in the causes of Parkison’s.
- Environmental factors: The combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors determines Parkinson’s disease development.
Some environmental factors or exposure may increase your risk of having Parkinson’s, while some may decrease the risk.
Symptoms of Parkison’s
The symptoms and signs of Parkison’s may be different among individuals. However, many of these symptoms often result from a loss of neurons producing a chemical messenger in your brain, called dopamine. The early symptoms may be mild and unnoticed, but as the dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to stiffness, impaired movement, and other symptoms.
Its symptoms include;
- Loss of automatic movements
- Impaired posture and balance
- Speech changes
- Rigid muscles
- skin problems
- dementia, delusions, and hallucinations
Having these symptoms does not guarantee Parkison’s because various other conditions( such as stroke, head trauma, encephalitis, etc.) can have similar symptoms. This makes it hard to diagnose Parkinson’s at its early stages.
Parkison’s at the moment has no cure. However, medications can help reduce its symptoms, and you may visit your doctor to suggest a suitable surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain, thus improving your symptoms.
- Medications: Medications are the common treatment for people with Parkison’s. It’s advised to visit your doctor to work closely on treatment plans that best suit you. Common Parkison’s treatment drugs include levodopa, dopamine agonists, Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, Anticholinergics, MAO B inhibitors, and some others.
- Surgical treatment: Surgical treatment of Parkinson’s include the following