what is parkinsons disease

What is Parkinsons Disease?

Cherished Home Care provides care at Home for people in Wilmslow, Alderley Edge, Handforth and Knutsford with Parkinsons Disease. But exactly what is Parkinsons Disease, how is it diagnosed and how is it treated? Try our quiz and read below for more information:

What is Parkinson’s Disease? 

Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the nervous system that is marked by tremor, muscular rigidity and slow shuffling gait. It was first described in medical terms by James Parkinson in 1817. 

Incidence  

1 in 500 people develop Parkinson’s Disease in their lifetime. Both men and women can develop Parkinson’s disease but the disease is 50% more common in men than women. The first symptoms of Parkinson’s typically appear in people around the age of 60.  However, between 5% and 10% of cases are ‘early-onset Parkinson’s disease’ which begins before the person becomes 50. As the population ages, more people are developing Parkinson’s disease. Approximately 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s disease. 

What is Parkinsons? 

Parkinson’s Disease occurs when nerve cells in a part of the brain that create dopamine, called the substantia nigra, start to die. It is normal for cells to breakdown but they are usually replaced by new cells. These cells in the substantia nigra aren’t replaced so the level of dopamine is reduced; this causes the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Dopamine is a hormone or a chemical in the brain. It is key to our ability to control movement and our emotional reactions. Levels of dopamine are directly linked to mood, sleep, memory, learning, concentration, and motor control.  Memory impairment and depression can also occur. This lack of Dopamine (around 20% of the normal amount) means that Parkinson’s disease causes difficulties with mobility, speech and swallowing; it is a progressive condition. In turn, symptoms may become more severe with time.   

Causes and Types  

The most common form of Parkinsonism is Idiopathic Parkinson’s which is a case of Parkinson’s Disease with an unknown cause. Even so, there are a number of different factors and types of Parkinson’s that have been confirmed to effect who develops the condition and how.  

Genetics: Early-onset forms of Parkinson’s in particular are linked with specific gene mutations that are sometimes inherited form parents. This means that Parkinson’s Disease can be more common in some families than others.  

Vascular Parkinsonism: This is due to a lack of blood flowing to the brain. This is sometimes the result of a mild stroke. 

Drug-Induced Parkinsonism: Some drugs can inhibit the uptake of dopamine in the brain and cause Parkinson’s symptoms. Examples are: Risperdal, fluoxetine and imipramine. A review of these medications by a Doctor could reverse the symptoms of Parkinsons disease.   

Symptoms 

There are three major symptoms commonly linked to Parkinson’s disease. 

  1. Involuntary Tremor: This symptom usually begins in the fingers, chin or hands before becoming more pronounced. Commonly, it results in hand shaking whilst resting. 

2. Stiff Muscles or Rigidity: A stiffness or tightness in the muscles can cause pain, discomfort and inhibit movement and mobility. 

3. Problems with Motor senses – These can appear in the following ways:   

Balance problems – People suffering from Parkison’s are more likely to suffer a fall and injure themselves due to loss of motor skills and control. 

Slower movement – Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may slow down. They may take smaller steps and struggle with balance. The person may also drag their feet when walking. 

Smaller handwriting – This is called Micrographia and can just be the result of poor eyesight or stiff hands. A person’s handwriting may become smaller and the words may be closer together.   

Blank or fixed facial expressions – Parkinson’s disease also affects facial muscles which can make it difficult for the individual to smile or to express emotion. This can reduce the individuals’ ability to communicate. 

Speech changes – A person may start hesitating before talking or start slurring their words when trying to communicate.  

Loss of smell – This can happen years before other symptoms show. 

Considering Dopamine is so important to the body and mind, Parkinson’s can lead to trouble sleeping (such as vivid dreams or talking and moving during sleep), depression or memory problems.   

As Parkinson’s is a progressive condition, symptoms usually begin mild before gradually getting worse over time. Movement becomes increasingly difficult, as does talking. The same is true of the mental consequences like depression and fatigue. It can also result in behavioural changes.  

Treatments 

Whilst there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, there are ways of treating the symptoms to allow the individual to maintain their independence and well-being. 

Drug Therapy: There are drugs that can act as Dopamine substitutes or help the body to produce more Dopamine. Referral to a Neurologist may be appropriate to ensure the most appropriate drugs are prescribed. If swallowing is problematic, medication in the form of liquid or a patch may be useful. 

Other therapies that may help include: 

Physiotherapy – Assessment by a Physiotherapist may be beneficial to aid with movement, balance and provide exercises. Exercise has been proven to be beneficial. Doing 2.5 hours or 150 minutes of exercise per week can help slow the progression of symptoms. This can also help with things like sleep and mental health. 

Occupational Therapy – An assessment may be useful to assess and recommend useful equipment or aids to maintain independence with personal hygiene, cooking, hobbies and reduce the risk of falls. 

Speech Therapy – An assessment from a speech and language therapist may help the person overcome difficulties with writing and expressing ideas. A swallowing assessment may be required to ensure good nutritional intake. Sometimes, a dietetic review may be useful, especially if swallowing is becoming a problem. Recommendations may be that the person should have a soft diet, thickened fluids or a supplement beverage.  

The Future 

Ongoing worldwide research into treatments for Parkinson’s disease continues in the hope of finding a cure. New treatments are being used for extreme cases. 

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a minimally invasive procedure to treat tremors, rigidity and motor control. Whilst it is not a cure, many individuals notice an improvement in their condition. 

The GP can provide support and medication if symptoms affect the person’s mental health. Symptoms of this could include memory impairment and depression. 

Parkinson’s Specialist Nurses are available to support people with Parkinson’s, monitoring their symptoms and advising on help and support that is available locally to them. 

Further information about Parkinsons Disease:

If you live in Wilmslow, Handforth, Alderley Egde or Knutsford and need support with care at home with Parkinsons Disease we are here to help you. Call us today for a chat about how we can help on 01625 403080

There are a wide range of Parkinson’s charity and support links. Linked down below are a few common websites and charities. 

Parkinson’s UK’s free Helpline: 0808 800 0303 

www.carersuk.org 

www.ageuk.org.uk 

cureparkinsons.org.uk

parkinsons.org.uk

One Response

  1. Such an informative and well written article. It is succinct and inclusive. Thank you for the information

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