Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
PD is commonly seen when a person is exposed to certain chemicals such as insecticides rotenone and permethrin. Symptoms are often seen early on in life in patients with genetic mutations. Other factors like head injury, history of tobacco smoking, tea, and alcohol addiction along with exposure to pesticides increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
The onset of this condition is marked by the breakdown of neurons in a dark-colored part of the brain called the substantia nigra. It conducts the relay of the messages to and from the brain, and is responsible to control movement. These neurons in the substantia nigra emit a chemical neurotransmitter substance called dopamine, which is deficient in persons suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Absence of dopamine causes slowing of body movements and coordination.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
The intensity of symptoms varies from person to person.
- Tremors-The most common symptoms seen in PD are tremors or trembling in various body parts such as hands, head, neck, jaw, etc. Tremors are often seen when the person is at rest and disappear when an action is initiated. Tremors are mostly seen in the limbs, usually starting on one side and taking over the other. The commonest tremor seen is the pill rolling movement of the fingers which is trembling that appears as if the person is rolling a pill between them. Everyday tasks like closing shirt buttons, tying shoe laces, combing hair, eating or drinking become increasingly difficult due to hand tremors.
- Rigidity- Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs, slowness of movements also called as bradykinesia, and instability of posture (imbalance) are also seen. Because people experience difficulty in movement, they take small steps at a time.
- Facial expressions are difficult leading to the classic mask face seen in persons with PD.
- Difficulty in speech, i.e. completing words and sentences, difficult in writing due to trembling, and an overall decrease in the quality of life are seen.
- At an advanced stage of disease, the person cannot move without support and needs constant assistance.
- Depression and anxiety are relatively common mental symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. Re-assurance from family and loved ones helps to ease out the stress of dependence. One must remember that stress aggravates the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease
Diagnosis is made by the individual’s history and clinical examination. A neurologist may confirm the diagnosis after observing major symptoms and lesions on MRI brain scans.
Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
The disease progresses slowly, and no complete cure has yet been identified. Even after diagnosis, one can only control and palliate the symptoms. The neurodegeneration occurring in this disease cannot be reversed, but can be kept under control. Medicines like levodopa produce chemicals similar to dopamine, and help in reducing the symptoms dramatically.
In Parkinson’s disease, medicines become a part of life, and have their own long term adverse effects. However, their advantages are much higher than the risks and it is advised to continue medicines life long. In advanced stages of disease.