Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that affects the neurological system and parts of the body controlled by the nerves. It is an age–related degenerative brain condition. This disorder can have a wide range of other consequences on the senses, thinking capability, mental health, and more. It is best known for how it reduces muscular function, balance, and movement.
Parkinson’s disease stands as the second most prevalent age–related degenerative brain condition, with the highest incidence among motor (movement–related) brain diseases.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease emerge gradually, often starting with a subtle tremor in one hand. Alongside tremors, individuals may experience stiffness or a decrease in movement speed. In the early stages, Parkinson’s can lead to reduced facial expressions and a lack of arm swinging while walking. Speech may become slurred or softer. As the condition progresses, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen over time.
While Parkinson’s disease currently lacks a known cure, there are several medications available that can significantly alleviate its symptoms. In certain situations, healthcare professionals might suggest surgical interventions that target specific areas of the brain. The purpose of these surgeries is to regulate particular brain regions and alleviate the symptoms experienced by the individual.
People with Parkinson’s disease may experience the condition in a unique way and sometimes early symptoms may be negligible and overlooked. Symptoms frequently start on one side of the body and usually worsen on that side, even after symptoms start to affect the limbs on both sides.
- Motor–related symptoms: Parkinson’s disease motor symptoms, or symptoms connected to movement, include the following:
- Bradykinesia (slow movement): Parkinson’s disease may cause movement slowdown over time, making routine actions challenging and time–consuming. People who experience it describe their muscles as being weak, but there is actually no loss of strength; instead, it is caused by issues with muscle control. Walking may cause the steps to get smaller. It could be challenging to get up from a chair. When attempting to walk, the patient may drag or shuffle their feet.
- Tremor: Tremor, or rhythmic shaking, typically starts in a limb, frequently the hand or fingers. They might wiggle their thumb and forefinger. The term “pill–rolling tremor” describes this. Even when at rest, their hand could shake. When they are working on chores, the shaking could lessen.
- Rigid muscles or stiffness: Parkinson’s disease commonly manifests as cogwheel stiffness and lead–pipe rigidity. When moving a bodily part, lead–pipe rigidity refers to a consistent, unchanging stiffness. Tremor and lead–pipe rigidity together result in cogwheel stiffness. Any area of the body can experience muscle stiffness. Their range of motion may be restricted and made painful by the stiff muscles.
- Impaired posture and balance: Parkinson’s illness may cause the posture to stooped, the patient to tumble or experience balance issues and may manifest as the condition worsens causing the person to walk with shorter, shuffled strides and less arm movement. Walking while turning may require several steps.
- Loss of automatic movements: The patient may have less capacity for automatic actions like blinking, grinning, or swinging their arms when walking.
- Speech changes: The patient can slur, speak quickly or softly, or pause before speaking. The regular speech patterns may not be present in their speech; it may be more monotonous.
- Writing changes: Their writing could get difficult to read and may seem small.
- Non–motor symptoms: There may be a number of symptoms that are unrelated to movement and muscle control. Non–motor symptoms, which are highlighted as potential early warning signs, include:
- Autonomic nervous system symptoms: They include urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunctions, constipation, and orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure after standing up).
- Anosmia: Loss of smell.
- Sleep problem: Rapid eye movement (REM) behavior disorder, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) are examples of sleep disorders.
- Parkinson’s–related dementia: Problems concentrating and thinking.
If an individual displays any symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, it is advisable for them to seek medical attention from a healthcare provider. A thorough evaluation is necessary to obtain a proper diagnosis and to exclude any other potential causes for their symptoms.
The brain’s specific nerve cells, or neurons, eventually deteriorate or die in Parkinson’s disease. The loss of neurons responsible for the brain chemical messenger dopamine in people with Parkinson’s disease is the cause of many of the disease’s symptoms. When dopamine levels fall, the brain behaves irregularly, which contributes to problems with movement and other symptoms.
While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown, several factors have been identified as potential contributors, including:
- Genetics: Parkinson’s disease can be passed down through the family, thus a patient may get it from either one or both of their parents. However, only about 10% of instances fall into this category. There are particular genetic changes that have been linked to Parkinson’s disease. These, however, are unusual unless there are several members of the family who are also affected by Parkinson’s disease.
- Environmental factors: Parkinson’s disease may develop later if patient are exposed to specific poisons or environmental factors, although the risk is quite low.
Additionally, various alterations have been observed in the brains of those who have Parkinson’s disease, though it is unclear why these changes take place. These adjustments include:
- Lewy bodies: Microscopic indicators of Parkinson’s disease include clumps of particular chemicals within brain cells. Lewy bodies are what they are, and scientists think they offer a crucial insight to what causes Parkinson’s disease.
- Alpha–synuclein found within Lewy bodies: Alpha–synuclein, often known as a–synuclein, is a naturally occurring protein that is present in Lewy bodies. All Lewy bodies contain it in clumped form, which cells are unable to degrade. At the moment, researchers studying Parkinson’s disease are concentrating heavily on this. People who eventually acquire Parkinson’s disease have clumped alpha–synuclein protein in their spinal fluid.
Parkinson’s disease risk factors include:
- Age: Parkinson’s disease often begins at the age of 60, and its likelihood of occurrence rises with aging.
Parkinson’s disease is a rare occurrence among young adults. It usually starts in middle or late life, and the risk gets higher when people get older. Making family planning decisions may be assisted by genetic counseling if a young person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Additionally distinct from those of an older individual with Parkinson’s disease and requiring special consideration are work, social circumstances, and medication side effects.
- Sex: Parkinson’s disease affects men more frequently than it does women.
- Hereditary: Parkinson’s disease is more likely to affect someone if they have a close family who has the condition. Unless they have a large number of Parkinson’s disease–affected family members, the chances are still minimal.
- Exposure to toxins: Prolonged exposure to pesticides and herbicides may slightly increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.