Parkinson’s disease is a slow progressing neurological disorder that is generally seen between 55 and 65 years of age and causes damage to brain cells. The most typical symptoms are frequent tremor in the hands, legs and arms; disrupted balance, slowed movements and loss of coordination occurs. Parkinson’s disease patients have rigidity in their arms and legs, and they may suffer from gait and speech problems. Parkinson’s is not a fatal disease, however, complications caused by it can lead to fatal outcomes; depression, swallowing and chewing problems, constipation, urinary problems and sleep disorder are common in Parkinson’s patients.
Although symptoms vary among individuals, tremors of hands and arms, and imbalanced movements must be taken into consideration for early diagnosis. Parkinson’s disease is becoming more and more common around the world and there is no cure yet; however, disease progression can be slowed and symptoms can be reduced with early diagnosis. In addition, certain drug therapies and surgical methods can provide significant improvements for some patients.
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Parkinson’s disease is progressive and irrecoverable neurological disorder that develops with the death of nerve cells in the midbrain. Gradual death of these neurons in the brain leads to the reduction of dopamine, a substance carrying information between neurons, causing loss of muscle movement control.
Studies showed that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease arise when the half of the neurons in the midbrain are lost. As symptoms worsen, patients may have difficulty in walking, speaking or performing simple tasks.
Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain. Nerve cells in the midbrain are responsible for the production of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts like a messenger between brain and parts of the nervous system and helps brain to control and coordinate the movements. If these cells are dead or damaged, dopamine in the brain decreases. This leads to slow and abnormal movements in the patients.
Genetic modifications and environmental factors are thought to play a combined role in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Scientists believe that some pesticides used in agriculture and industrial pollution may be contributing factors in the disease development.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease progress slowly with a mild course at beginning; there are many different symptoms related to disease and these can vary among individuals.
Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed with detailed medical history obtained from the patient and physical examination. During the physical examination, patients can be asked to perform simple mental or physical tasks such as talking with them about the problems faced or having them move.
Brain imaging or a special blood test is not mandatory for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. These methods are used to eliminate other causes that are included in the differential diagnosis of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease affect people in different ways and each individual has different symptoms. And stages of the disease vary depending on the symptoms. Parkinson’s disease is consisted of five stages.
Among neurodegenerative brain disorder, only Parkinson’s disease responds well to the treatment. In Parkinson’s disease, it is very important for patients and their families to cooperate with the doctor for many years. There is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
Treatment of Parkinson’s patients can vary based on their symptoms and drug therapy or surgical treatment may be preferred. Other treatments include lifestyle changes like getting more rest and exercise. There are many medications available for the treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms; however, these are yet to be successful in reversing the effects of the disease.
Although there are general guidelines available for doctors to choose treatment regime for Parkinson’s disease, doctors may prefer different applications based on the individual. Selection of drug therapy, current symptoms, other existing health conditions (and medications used for their treatment) and age are among the determining factors. Drug doses varies significantly depending on individual needs and metabolism of each patient.
As Parkinson’s disease is caused by dopamine deficiency in the brain, some Parkinson’s drugs mimic the effect of dopamine. These drugs are called dopaminergic drugs. Such drugs help to reduce muscle rigidity, improve speed and movement coordination and decrease tremors. It must be noted that drugs are a part of the general plan in Parkinson’s treatment.
Some drugs that are used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and mimics the dopamine deficiency in the brain are: Levodopa, KOMT inhibitors, MAO-B inhibitors, Dopamine receptor agonists, anticholinergic drugs and amantadines.
Surgical treatment of Parkinson’s disease is performed for patients with tremors and unresponsive to drug therapy or suffering from deep motor fluctuations.
Brain pacemaker surgery in Parkinson’s disease is performed by placing two electrodes to the determined areas of the brain. A pacemaker, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, is implanted subcutaneously to the chest and electrodes are connected to this pacemaker via connectors extended from under the skin.
Then, frequencies and stimulation parameters that are suitable for the patient are adjusted using a computer. After the surgery, patients frequently go for control visits for two to three weeks and optimal settings are adjusted during this period.
A generator that control and coordinates the movements is implanted to the patients in neurostimulator operations. Known as `brain pacemaker` colloquially, this procedure is performed for advanced stage patients who are unresponsive to drug therapies.
However, surgical treatment is not a definitive treatment and performed to increase the life standard and decrease dependency to other by reducing or completely eliminating the complaints. Stem cell treatment approaches and genetic therapies aimed at root cause of Parkinson’s disease are still being investigated and are promising treatment options for the future.
Parkinson’s disease is a difficult process both for the patients and their relatives. Patients struggle with many of their daily activities due to restricted movement. Eating of course is the most important aspect as a fundamental need. Parkinson’s disease spoon, manufactured by Google, helps Parkinson’s patients to eat more comfortable, senses the tremoring hand and significantly prevents shaking by keeping the hand steady.
A singular diet is not effective for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease or its symptoms; however, a healthy and balanced diet is generally very helpful for overall health. Eating fruits and vegetables helps remaining energetic, food and drinks rich in fibers alleviate constipation symptoms or low blood pressure.
Clinical trials conducted in the past decade investigated antioxidant treatment for Parkinson’s disease, however, no concrete evidence was found to associate antioxidant with Parkinson’s treatment. Below are the medicinal plants thought to be good for Parkinson’s disease:
References: 1- Parkinson's Disease, 2- Parkinson's disease symptoms, 3- What Causes Parkinson's Disease?