What exactly is Parkinson’s disease?

It is a neuro degenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine- producing (Dopaminergic) neurons in a specific area of the brain called the Substantia Nigra. Symptoms develop slowly over the years and affect different people in different ways. Men are more prone to developing Parkinson’s than woman.

Patients may experience deterioration of motor skills such as:

  • Tremor
  • Rigidity of the body
  • Bradykinesia- Slowness of movement
  • Gait and Balance Problems
  • Shuffling of feet

There are some symptoms of Parkinson’s that are “non-motor” related.  Some patients may experience apathy ,depression, constipation, sleep behavior disorders, loss of smell and cognitive impairment. Sometimes patients affected may speak in a low voice or have a mask like look on their face showing no emotion. In addition, a noticeable smaller handwriting than normal has been known to be an indication.

I have had some personal experience with this condition as my brother-in-law was affected at about 57 years of age.  He was a vibrant, energetic outgoing person who loved the outdoors and life in general. Put a bow and arrow, gun or fishing pole in his hand and he was a happy hunter and fisherman as well as an avid and talented water skier. It is very sad to watch a person deteriorate seemingly right before your eyes.  But it happens.

The cause of PD is largely unknown, although many doctors and scientist believe it is caused by a variety of factors such as DNA, head injury or trauma, environmental exposure and lifestyle. As a matter of fact, my brother-in law did have head and neck injuries from his many exploits.

Studies have shown that repeated exposure to some pesticides and insecticides increased the likelihood of developing PD.  In addition, exposure to certain types of metals may be a factor. Then there’s that ole DNA make-up that we all inherit that makes us more or less prone to developing certain diseases.

Although there is no cure, a person can have a good quality of life with recommended therapies and medications that slow the progression of the disease. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, complications from it can be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated PD as the 4th cause of death in the United States.

Scientist are exploring ways to identify biomarkers from bloodwork for PD that can lead to an earlier diagnosis and treatments to slow down the disease progression.  As it is, most patients do not experience symptoms of the disease until later when a significant amount of the Substantia Nigra has been lost or impaired.  Like many other diseases, early detection is the key!

There are many medications available to treat Parkinson’s disease; ( Available @ AvKARE ) in addition to rest, exercise and lifestyle modifications that your doctor may prescribe.

Like many other diseases that affect us in this life, there is hope and promise for better outcomes in the future!