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Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and More

Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and More

by Zahra Ijaz · October 4, 2021

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects your mobility.
The initial symptoms of this condition are often not noticeable, however, you may notice tremors in some cases.
There are certain medications that can help treat the symptoms, but, there is no cure for this condition.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.

1.

Parkinson’s Disease and Stages

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the nerves of the brain, thus, resulting in changes in the functions of the body.

Often the symptoms are not noticeable at the initial stages, however, in some cases, individuals may observe tremors in one hand. Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s to this date, however, with the help of certain medications, your doctor can help treat the symptoms.

Parkinson's disease


Your brain produces dopamine and with the help of this chemical, your body is able to have smooth and coordinated movements.

The part of your brain “substantial nigra” produces this chemical dopamine.

It is important to note that in Parkinson’s disease, the cells of the substantial nigra start to die.

When this process begins, the levels of dopamine reduces.

As this happens with time when the level drops to 60 to 80%, symptoms of Parkinson’s start to appear.

Now let’s discuss the stages of Parkinson’s Disease as follows:

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease and the symptoms tend to worsen with time.

Many doctors use the Hoehn and Yahr scale to classify these stages and according to this scale, the symptoms are divided into 5 stages.

It helps the healthcare providers to learn how advanced the signs and symptoms are.
Let’s discuss them as follows:

Stage 1
Stage 1 is the mildest form and in fact, you may not experience any symptoms that are observable.

Moreover, these symptoms do not interfere with your daily life and taste yet.

However, if you do have symptoms, they may be isolated to one side of the body.

2nd Stage
The progression from stage 1 to stage 2 can take months or even years, however, different individuals have different symptoms.

At this moderate stage, you may experience muscle stiffness, tremors, changes in facial expressions, and trembling.

Additionally, the symptoms may also appear on both sides of the body. Changes in posture, gait, and facial expressions are most noticeable in this stage.

3rd Stage
This one is the middle stage and the symptoms start to progress.

While the likelihood of development of new symptoms is less, the symptoms tend to be more noticeable.

stages

Movements of your body appear slower, which slows down your activities, balance issues are more significant, thus falling becomes common.

However, individuals at this stage usually maintain their independence and complete their regular activities without much assistance.

4th Stage
During this stage, there are significant changes and you will experience great difficulty standing without a walker or assistive device.

Reactions and the movement of the muscles are slow and living alone can be unsafe and dangerous.

5th Stage
The most advanced stage of Parkinson’s is this stage. Symptoms can make you need assistance around the clock and it will be difficult to stand.

Thus, you may need a wheelchair for movement. Additionally, you may experience confusion, delusions, and hallucinations.

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2.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease and the symptoms of this disease are often unnoticeable during the initial stage.

One of the most obvious symptoms of this condition is tremors in the hand or changes in the movement in one side of your body.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Parkinson's disease 1

Some of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s can begin a number of years before motor problems develop.

The earliest signs are a decrease in your ability to smell or
anosmia, constipation, small, cramped handwriting, voice changes, and stooped posture.

Moreover, the 4 major motor issues that are noticeable are:
Tremor or shaking that occurs at rest, slow movements, stiffness of arms, legs, and trunk.

Problems with balance and tendency to fall are among the motor problems.

Secondary symptoms of this disease are:

Blank facial expressions, a tendency to get stuck when walking, muffled, or low volume speech.

Decreased blinking and swallowing, tendency to fall in the backward direction, reduction in arm swinging while walking, and Parkinson’s gait are secondary symptoms.

symptoms

Parkinson’s gait is the tendency to take shuffling steps while walking.

Associated Symptoms

Other associated symptoms are:

  • flaky white or yellow scales on the oily parts of the skin, Seborrheic dermatitis
  • increase in the risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer
  • sleep disturbances like vivid dreams, talking, and movement during sleep
  • depression and anxiety
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis
  • problems with attention and memory
  • difficulty in visual-spatial relations

It is important to note that during this disease, the early signs and symptoms go unnoticeable.

Moreover, your body may try to alert you to the movement disorder many years before it begins with the above warning signs.

3.

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

To this date, the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown.

Many doctors and researchers are of the view that both genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the development of this disease.

Some scientists are of the view that certain viruses may also trigger Parkinson’s.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Parkinson's disease 4

 

Low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine have been linked to the development of Parkinson’s.

Norepinephrine is a substance that regulates dopamine in your body.

Moreover, abnormal proteins, i.e. Lewy bodies that are also present in your brain are also found in this condition.

Scientists do not know what role these Lewy bodies play in the development of this condition.

Development of Parkinson’s Disease

While there is no known cause, research shows that the following groups are more likely to develop this disease than others.

causes

These are:
Gender
Men are one and half times more likely to develop this condition than women.

Age
This disease most often appears between the ages of 50 to 60. It only occurs before 40 years of age in about 4% of the cases.

Race
Research suggests that there is a high prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in white people than Black or Asian people.

Moreover, geographic location is also one of the reasons for higher risk.

Heredity
If anyone in your family or close relatives is suffering from this condition, then you are also at the risk of developing it.

Toxins
Exposure to certain toxins can increase the likelihood of Parkinson’s Disease.

Head Injury
If you experience a head injury, you may increase your risk of developing this disease

Every year, researchers are trying to understand why certain individuals are developing this condition.

According to a recent study, about 1,676 individuals in China have Parkinson and genes play a role in the development of this condition.

Moreover, an estimated amount of 10 to 15% has a family history of this condition.

According to Genetics Home Reference, one possible way of developing this condition is the mutation of the genes responsible for producing dopamine and certain proteins that are important for brain functions.

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4.

Treatment-Options

Lifestyle changes, medications, and therapies are often recommended for the treatment of this condition.

Moreover, your doctor will use a combination of the above to treat it.
Adequate exercise, rest, and a balanced diet are crucial.

But first, let’s discuss the diagnosis of this condition.

drugs and medications

Diagnosing Parkinson’s

To this date, there is no specific test that can help diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

However, your doctor can make a diagnosis on the basis of medical history, a physical and neurological examination as well as a review of signs and symptoms.

Images tests can help to rule out other conditions.

These image tests are:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan

Moreover, a dopamine transporter or DAT Scan can help.

While these tests do not confirm Parkinson’s, they can help rule out the possibility of other conditions and support your doctor’s diagnosis.

Treating Parkinson’s

Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy can also help to improve communication and self-care.

In all cases of Parkinson’s disease, medications are prescribed to help manage the different physical and mental health symptoms that are associated with this disease.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Drugs and Medications for Parkinson’s Disease

Certain drugs can help to treat this condition. These are:
Levodopa
This is the most common medication for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and helps to replenish dopamine.

About 75% of the cases respond to this medication, however, not all the symptoms improve. Levodopa is generally administered with carbidopa.

Carbidopa helps to delay the breakdown of levodopa which in turn decreases the availability of this disease at the blood-brain barrier.

Anticholinergics
This medication blocks the parasympathetic nervous system and helps with rigidity.

Benztropine or Cogentin and trihexyphenidyl are medications to treat Parkinson’s.

Parkinson's disease 3

COMT inhibitors
Catechol O-methyltransferase or COMT inhibitors prolong the effects of levodopa.

However, one of the types of this medication: Tolcapone or Tasmar can cause liver damage.

It is often prescribed to individuals who do not respond to other treatments.

Moreover, entacapone does not cause liver damage. Stalevo is a combination of both and carbidopa-levodopa in one pill.

Amantadine or Symmetrel
Your doctor will prescribe this medication along with carbidopa-levodopa and is a glutamate-blocking drug, NMDA.

It offers short-term relief for involuntary movements or dyskinesia that can be a side effect of levodopa.

MAO-B inhibitors
These medications inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase B and are an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain.

Selegiline or Eldepryl and rasagiline or Azilect are examples of this medication.

Consult with your doctor before taking these medications and can interact with:

  • antidepressants
  • ciprofloxacin
  • St. John’s wort
  • some narcotics

With time, the effectiveness of the medication may decrease in this condition.

In the late stage of Parkinson’s the side effects may also increase and outweigh the benefits.

However, some medications may still provide enough management of symptoms.
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Surgical Options

Surgical interventions are recommended if you do not respond to medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

There are 2 primary types of surgery to treat Parkinson’s.
Let’s discuss them as follows:
Deep Brain Stimulation
During DBS, your surgeon will implant electrodes in specific parts of your brain.

A generator is connected to the ends of these electrodes that send pulses to help reduce symptoms.

Pump-Delivered Therapy
FDA or the Food and Drug Administration approved a pump-delivered therapy, Duopa, in January 2015.

In this therapy, the pump delivers a combination of medications levodopa and carbidopa.

To use this pump, your doctor will perform a surgical procedure to place the pump near the small intestines.

Prognosis of Parkinson’s Disease

Different complications that result due to this disease can greatly affect the quality of your life and prognosis.

For instance, individuals with this disease experience dangerous falls, as well as blood clots in the lungs and legs.

These complications can be fatal and life-threatening.

Prognosis

Moreover, it may not be possible to slow the progression of Parkinson’s.

However, you can work to overcome the obstacles and complications to have a better quality of life for as long as possible.

Cure for Parkinson’s
To this date, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease as it is a chronic condition and worsens over time.

It is important to note that more than 50,000 new cases are reported in the United States every year.

However, there may be even more as this condition is often misdiagnosed.

Moreover, the complications of Parkinson’s are one of the 14th causes of death in the United States in 2016.

5.

Exercise and Diet for Parkinson’s Disease

Certain exercises and dietary changes can help to stabilize your balance and improve your overall movements.

Parkinson’s often causes problems with daily activities, however, simple exercises and diet can help.

Moreover, diet can help manage certain symptoms of this condition as some of them provide important nutrients to your body to fight this condition.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

help

 

Exercises for Parkinson’s

With the help of simple exercises and stretches, you can help to move you your body around and walk more slowly.

To improve Walking
To improve your walking, make sure to walk carefully, pace yourself, and try not to move too quickly.

Let your heel hit the floor first and check your posture and stand up straight. This will help to shuffle less.

Avoid Falling
To avoid falls, do not walk backward, try not to carry things while walking, and avoid leaning and reaching.

diet and exercise

Moreover, to turn around, make a U-turn, instead of pivoting your feet, and remove all the tripping hazards in your house.

Examples are loose rugs etc.

When Dressing Up
Make sure to give yourself ample time to get ready and avoid rushing at all.

Select clothes that are easy to put on and take off, try using items with Velcro instead of buttons.

It is important to try wearing pants and skirts with elastic waistbands as they are easier to wear than buttons and zippers.

Moreover, yoga uses targeted muscle movements to build them, increase mobility, and improve flexibility.

You may notice that yoga even helps to manage tremors in some affected limbs.

Dietary Changes

Diet can play an important role in your daily if you have Parkinson’s.

While it will not treat or prevent its progression, a healthy diet can have a significant impact.

Parkinson’s develops as a result of to decrease in the dopamine levels in your brain.

Moreover, you may be able to increase these levels naturally with the help of food.

These foods are as follows:
Antioxidants
Foods that are high in antioxidants can help to prevent oxidative stress and damage to your brain.

Antioxidant-rich food includes nuts, berries, and nightshade green vegetables.

Fava Beans
These beans naturally contain levodopa, the same ingredient present in the medications for Parkinson’s.

Omega 3s
Foods like salmon, oyster, flaxseed, and some beans contain Omega 3s that can protect your brain from damage.

In addition to adding these beneficial foods to your diet, you should avoid dairy and saturated fats.

These food groups may increase your risk for Parkinson’s or speed up its progression.

Preventing It

Doctors and researchers do not understand the causes of Parkinson’s, and they are also not sure why it progresses differently in different individuals.

That is why it is unclear regarding the prevention of this disease.

Every year, researchers investigate why this condition develops and what steps can be taken to prevent it.

A recent study suggests that certain lifestyle factors like physical exercise and a diet rich in antioxidants can help to protect yourself.

However, if you have a family history of Parkinson’s. you may consider genetic testing.

Moreover, certain genes have been linked to this condition, however, it is important to know what having these mutations does not mean you will defiantly develop this condition.

Therefore, consult your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting genetic tests.

Outlook

Parkinson’s is a different condition than MS, multiple sclerosis, and both the conditions are often confused as the symptoms are often similar.

Both these conditions affect the central nervous system and they can produce similar symptoms like tremors, slurred speech, poor balance, changes in movement, and gait.

However, both the conditions are different in a way that MS is an autoimmune condition and affects younger individuals than older ones as in Parkinson’s. Thus, it is important to consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s or if you have been diagnosed and looking for ways to manage this condition.

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