What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD or, simply, Parkinson’s) is the most common form of parkinsonism, a group of motor system disorders. It is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease that is usually associated with the following symptoms, all of which result from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells:
- tremor or trembling of the arms, jaw, legs, and face
- stiffness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk
- bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination
Dopamine is a substance produced in the body which has many effects, including smooth and coordinated muscle movement.
What causes Parkinson’s disease (PD)?
The specific cause of PD is unknown; however, medical experts believe the symptoms are related to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by brain-cell death. Parkinson’s disease is chronic (persists over a long period of time), and progressive (symptoms grow worse over time).
Although the disease may appear in younger patients (even teenagers), it usually affects people in late middle age. It is not contagious, nor is it likely passed on from generation to generation.
The biggest risk factor for developing PD is advancing age. The average age for the onset of PD is 60 years. In addition, 50 percent more men are affected than women, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. However, the reason for this is unclear.
Family history is another important risk factor. Individuals with a parent or sibling who are affected have approximately two times the chance of developing PD. This increased risk is most likely because of a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Environmental causes are being researched and the strong consistent findings are that rural living, exposure to well water, and exposure to agricultural pesticides and herbicides are related to PD. It is important to remember, however, that these factors do not guarantee the development of PD, nor does their absence prevent it. Having one or more close relatives with PD increases one’s risk of developing the disease; however, unless there is a known genetic mutation for PD present, the increased risk is only 2 percent to 5 percent.
Currently researchers believe that in most individuals the cause of PD is a combination of genetics and environmental exposure.
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease:
Specific treatment for a Parkinson’s disease will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the condition
- type of condition
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
With today’s medicine, we have yet to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, based upon the severity of the symptoms and medical profile, the physician will establish an appropriate treatment protocol. Treatment for Parkinson’s disease may include the following:
- complementary and supportive therapies, such as diet, exercise, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy