Parkinson’s Disease 101
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects nearly 10 million people across the globe. The disease is progressive in nature, which means the symptoms will worsen over time.
Whether you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or you have a family member with the disease, you likely have some questions about it. We answer them here:
How Does Parkinson’s Affect a Person?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. This means that it causes deterioration of some parts of the brain. Here, the nerve cells in the brain stem which help control movement and mood are affected. These nerve cells are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. They also deliver messages to the spinal cord and muscles. When a person has Parkinson’s disease, it’s generally because there is a lack of dopamine being delivered to the muscles and spinal cord due to neuron damage.
What Causes Parkinson’s?
Currently, doctors don’t know exactly what causes this disease. It appears to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors, but researchers haven’t been able to definitively say.
What Are the Symptoms?
Parkinson’s progresses slowly, but warning signs include tremors, balance problems, and difficulty smiling or blinking. Other symptoms can include slowed movement, slurred speech, unsteady gait, changes in handwriting and rigid muscles.
Is There a Cure?
There is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s. Typically, those diagnosed with the disease will work closely with a neurologist and general care team to manage the symptoms with medication and lifestyle changes.
How Can Parkinson’s Be Managed?
It’s possible for a person with the disease to live a full and happy life for many years with the help of medication and other therapies.
Parkinson’s may present a bit differently in each individual, so the treatment plan will be unique according to a person’s needs. In addition to certain medications that can help to provide the missing dopamine, many people with Parkinson’s also benefit from treatments such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Some people use alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, massage, and acupuncture for additional symptom relief, but there is not much reliable data to support these techniques.
A small subset of patients may also be eligible for a surgical procedure to help with the underlying cause of the disease, but this is something that is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Knowledge is Power
Being able to spot early warning signs is the best way to manage the disease. Don’t hesitate to speak with a doctor if you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone you love.