»   What is Parkinsons

  »   Causes

  »   10 Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease

  »   Movement Symptoms

  »   Non-Movement Symptoms

  »   Diagnosis

  »   Treatment

What Is Parkinson's

Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing ("dopaminergic") neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.


Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with Parkinson's Disease may experience:
  »  Tremor
  »  Bradykinesia
  »  Limb Rigidity
  »  Gait & Balance Problems

The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medication. While Parkinson's itself is not fatal, disease complications can be very serious.

The first step to living well with Parkinson's Disease is to understand the disease and how it progresses.

It is possible that you can still have a good to great quality of life even with Parkinson's Disease. Working with your doctor and following the recommended therapies are essential in successfully treating the symptoms especially when using dopaminergic medications. People with Parkinson's need this medication because they have low levels or are missing dopamine in the brain, mainly due to impairment of neurons in the substantia nigra.

It is important to understand that people with Parkinson's first start experiencing symptoms later in the course of the disease due to a significant amount of the neurons which have already been lost or impaired. Lewy bodies (accumulation of abnormal alpha-synuclein) are found in substantia nigra neurons of Parkinson's patients.

Scientists are exploring ways to identify biomarkers for Parkinson's Disease that can lead to earlier diagnosis and more tailored treatments to slow down the disease process. Currently, all therapies used for Parkinson's improve the symptoms without slowing or halting the progression of the disease.

In addition to movement relsted ("motor") symptoms, Parkinson's symptoms may be unrelated to movement ("non-movement"). People with Parkinson's are often more impacted by their non motor symptoms than motor symptoms. Some examples of non-motor symptoms include but are not limited to: Apathy, Depression, Constipation, Sleep Behaviour, Loss of Sense of Smell and Cognitive Impairment.

     


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Causes

Parkinson's Disease is an extremely diverse disorder. While no two people experience Parkinson's in the same way, there are some commonalities. People with Parkinson's don't have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died. We don't know yet exactly why people get Parkinson's, but researchers think it is a combination of genetics and environmental factors that cause the dopamine producing nerve cells to die.

For the majority of people, the actual cause of their Parkinson's is unknown. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to pesticides and industrial solvents can increase your risk of Parkinson's. If you would like to learn more about the causes, please read some our the research on the risk factors of Parkinson's.


  


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10 Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease

It can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has Parkinson's Disease. Not everyone diagnosed with Parkinson's will develop all the symptoms possible and as the disease progresses, other symptoms may appear.

However there are ten telltale signs and symptoms that doctors use for a possible Parkinson's Disease diagnosis. If you have one or two it is nothing that you should worry about but if you have some of the 10 symptoms it is an idea to go and speak to your doctor.






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Movement Symptoms

Parkinson's Disease is called a movement disorder because of the tremors, slowing and stiffening movements it can cause, and these are the most obvious symptoms of the disease. But Parkinson's affects many systems in the body. The symptoms are different from person to person and usually develop slowly over time.

There is no single test or scan for Parkinson's Disease, but there are three telltale symptoms that help doctors make a diagnosis,
  1.  Bradykinesia
  2.  Tremor
  3.  Rigidity

Bradykinesia plus either tremor or rigidity must be present for a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis to be considered. Another movement symptom that is often mentions is postural instability (trouble with balance and falls), but it does not occur until later in the disease progression. In fact problems with walking, balance and turning around early in the disease are likely to be a sign of an atypical parkinsonism.

Additional Movement Symptoms
  »l  Cramping (dystonia) :sustained or repetitive twisting or tightening of muscles.
  »l  Drooling (sialorrhea) :excessive saliva or drolling may result due to a decrease in normallu automatic actions like swallowing.
  »l  Dyskinesia :involuntary, erratic movements of face, arms, legs or trunk.
  »  Festination :short, rapid steps taken during walking.
  »  Freezing :gives the appearance of being stuck in place.
  »  Masked Face (hypomimia) :result from the combination of bradykinesia and rigidity.
  »  Micrographia :small, untidy and cramped handwriting.
  »  Shuffling Gait :accompanied by short steps and a stooped posture.
  »  Soft Speech (hypophonia) :soft, sometimes hoarse voice.

What Causes Parkinson's Movement Symptoms

Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that is primarily responsible for controlling movement, emotional responses and the ability to feel pleasure and pain. In people with Parkinson's, the cells that make dopamine are impaired. As the disease progresses, more dopamine-producing brain cells die. Your brain eventually reaches a point where it stops producing dopamine in any significant amount. This causes increasing problems with movement.


           


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Non- Movement Symptoms

Parkinson's Disease is generally thought of as a disease that only involved movement. But it addition to motor symptoms such as slowness of movement, tremor, stiffness and postural instability, most people develop other health problems related to Parkinson's. These symptoms are diverse and collectively known as non-motor symptoms.

While family and friends may not be able to see these symptoms, it is important to realize that non-motor symptoms are common and can be more troublesome and disabling that motor symptoms. Some symptoms, such as loss of smell, constipation, depression and REM sleep behaviour disorder can occur years before the diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.

Non-Motor Symptoms can include:
  »  Cognitive Changes: problems with attention, planning, language, memory or even dementia.
  »  Constipation
  »  Early Satiety: feeling of fullness after eating small amounts
  »  Excessive Sweating: often when wearing off medications
  »  Fatigue
  »  Increase in Dandruff
  »  Hallucinations and Delusions
  »  Lightheadedness: drop in blood pressure when standing
  »  Loss of sense of smell or taste
  »  Mood Disorders: such as depression, anxiety, apathy and irritability
  »  Pain:
  »  Sleep Disorders: such as insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, REM sleep behaviour disorder, vivid dreams, Restless Leg Syndrome
  »  Vision Changes: especially when attempting to read items up close
  »  Weight Loss


           


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Diagnosis

There is no "one way" to diagnose Parkinson's Disease. However, there are various symptoms and diagnostic tests used in combination. Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson's - particularly in its early stage - is difficult, but a skilled practitioner can come to a reasoned conclusion that it is Parkinson's. It is important to remember that two of the four main symptoms must be present over a period of time for a neurologist to consider a Parkinson's Disease diagnosis:
  »  Shaking or Tremor
  »  Slowness of movement, called Bradykinesia
  »  Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk
  »  Trouble with balance and possble falls, also called postural instability

Often, a Parkinson's diagnosis is first made by an internist or general practitioner (GP). Many people seek an additional opinion from a neurologist with experience and specific training in the assessment and treatment of Parkinson's Disease, often referred to as a Movement Disorder.




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Treatment

There is no treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Treatment for each person with Parkinson's is based on their symptoms.

Treatments include medication and surgical therapy. Other treatments include lifestyle modifications, like getting more rest and exercise. There are many mediccations available to treat the symtpsoms, although none yet that reverse the effects of the disease. It is common for people with Parkinson's Disease to take a variety of these medications - all at different doses and at different times of the day - to manage symptoms.

While keeping track of medications can be a challenging task, understanding your medications and sticking to a schedule will provide the greatest benefit from the drugs and avoid unpleasant "off" periods due to missed doses.

     


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