Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's Disease is a disorder that affects the central nervous system in a degenerative way. Parkinson's Disease kills the dopamine neurotransmitters located in the midbrain. In this article we will look at the symptoms, the causes, the treatments and prognosis of having Parkinson's Disease.

Symptoms

There are four cardinal symptoms when it comes to Parkinson's Disease. They are rigidity, postural instability, akinesia and bradykinesia, and tremors. Tremors are the most commonly occurring of the four cardinal symptoms. A lot of the time this symptom does not present itself until the disease has progressed quite a bit. Tremors are most visible when the sufferer's limbs are at rest.

akinesia and bradykinesia are the slowness and absence of movement (respectively). These can be the most disabling symptoms at the onset of the disease. Postural instability is a symptom that occurs when the postural reflexes are affected. Postural reflexes worsen as the disease progresses. The number of falls the sufferer takes is in accordance to how badly the Parkinson's has progressed. And finally, rigidity is caused by increased muscle tone which makes it hard for the limbs to move.

Causes

For the most part, it is unknown what causes Parkinson's Disease. However, there are a small number of sufferers that have Parkinson's as a result of genetics. About 15% of people with Parkinson's Disease have first-degree family that suffer from the disease. There are also about 5% of people who have gene mutations that have caused their Parkinson's. There may also be environmental causes that result in Parkinson's Disease. Professionals believe that pesticides are a contributor to the disease. Head injuries can also lead to Parkinson's.

Nursing at home with man with cane

Treatments

The majority of treatments for Parkinson's Disease are based around restoring the balance between the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine. This is done by increasing the levels of dopamine. If the disease degenerates to a bad state then there is an implant that can be put into the brain that stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are also medicines used specifically for the symptoms that are caused by Parkinson's Disease. Levodopa, or L-dopa as it is more commonly known, is the most widely used drug when treating Parkinson's symptoms. The drug makes the body produce its own dopamine. There are dopamine agonists that mimic the brain's natural dopamine transmitters to help with the motor symptoms of the patient. This drug is often taken along side of L-dopa. Another drug that is taken alongside of L-dopa are COMT inhibitors. They block the enzyme which breaks down the L-dopa therefore prolonging the relief of the symptoms. MAO-B inhibitors unlike COMT inhibitors may be taken alone. However, they do the same job of block the enzymes that would help to break down the L-dopa.

Prognosis

The mortality rate of someone with Parkinson's Disease is about twice that of someone without. The life expectancy rate of the sufferer is lessened. Motor symptoms aggressively advance if not treated in the initial stages of the disease. Untreated, the sufferer can expect to be bedridden in about 10 years. If you are started on L-dopa, you may have as much as 15 years before you need any assistance with day-to-day activities. However, the advancement of Parkinson's differs from one person to the next. Since so many people get their motor symptoms treated right away, it is the non-motor symptoms that are leading to disability mostly for the Parkinson's patient.