Prevalent amongst elderly individuals aged 60 and over, Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 10 million individuals across the globe. This medical condition gradually affects movement as the disease progresses. Parkinson’s disease targets the nervous system, one of our bodily systems that is tasked with keeping our bodies running smoothly. Most disorders, such as speech and movement, can be directly traced back to a malfunction within the nervous system.
The nervous system functions by communicating with the rest of the body through signals. Through these signals, the brain can interpret what our eyes perceive, what we touch, and scents or sounds that we may experience. Using our gained knowledge over the years, our brain is able to accurately provide instructions to the rest of the body in order to keep us safe and healthy. Based on this, we already know that the nervous system is a vital component of our bodies, but what happens when there is a malfunction?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death of cells within the nervous system. The most targeted cells include those that are responsible for producing chemicals in the brain, specifically the chemical that produces an elevated sense of happiness. When that level drops, our brain function is reduced and can cause a variety of undesirable symptoms.
While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, researchers have identified a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing this condition. They include genes and our surroundings. Most hindering medical conditions are typically genetic, meaning that they are passed through a family by random mutation. This mutated gene can increase your risk if it is present in your genetic make-up. Your environment may also have a slight impact depending on the toxins or pollutants in the surrounding atmosphere.
Parkinson’s disease typically occurs slowly, with a gradual progression. The first signs may not be noticeable and may require a diagnosis before moving towards treatment. Most symptoms of this condition involve impaired movement, such as loss of balance, speech and writing impairments, bradykinesia, tremors, and stiff muscles.
These symptoms may cause complications, such as thinking difficulties, depression, inability to control urination, sleep disorders, and more. Fortunately, effective treatment can work to prevent these complications from occurring.
Like with any medical condition, detecting and diagnosing Parkinson's disease in its early stages can allow for greater treatment success. Note that treatment does not include curing the disease because there is currently no known cure for Parkinson's. The most common course of treatment involves medication for managing symptoms and surgery. In some cases, lifestyle changes may also be recommended.
Medications for Parkinson's disease are meant for increasing the levels of lost chemicals within the nervous system. As these levels increase, brain function will become better and a patient may experience fewer symptoms associated with Parkinson's. While these medications may be effective at first, over time, your body may develop a tolerance toward them. To combat this, medications are usually coupled with lifestyle changes to ensure long-term effectiveness and successful treatment.
If Parkinson’s disease has already progressed beyond the help of medications, deep brain stimulation may be an option. In this procedure, electrodes are implanted into the patient’s brain and controlled by a generator implanted in the upper abdomen. Because this surgery has risks, it is only recommended for patients who respond poorly to medications. Deep brain stimulation works to improve symptoms of Parkinson’s while affecting how a patient’s body reacts to medications. If needed, the surgeon may be able to control the setting of the generator as the disease progresses.
Upon experiencing the early symptoms of Parkinson's, it is important to attain a medical evaluation for the condition. An early diagnosis can prevent the progression of the disease and secure your quality of life.
Parkinson’s disease can affect your daily life in many ways, but there are also things that you can do to increase your quality of life, even with the condition. For instance, patients may make diet changes, seek emotional support, and find alternative methods for performing basic tasks. If you have been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, there are plenty of resources at your disposal, whether through the internet, doctor’s office, or simply through a friend.
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