What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder that slowly affects the movements of a person, even his ability to write and speak. This disease develops gradually. It shows affect on one’s muscles as well. This problem fits into a group of conditions that is known as movement disorders that have a neurological basis.
What Causes Parkinson’s disease?
The cause of Parkinson’s disease is related to the progressive impairment or deterioration of neurons (that is nerve cells) in the substantia nigra (a part of the brain). In normal condition, the nerve cells produce a vital brain chemical known as dopamine that helps in communication between two brain parts, the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum, necessary for coordination and balance in the movement of the muscles.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary in different individuals. Initially the signs may go unnoticed as they are quite soft. In most cases, the symptoms start from one side of the body, however, even when they spread to both the sides, they show worsening effects on the side from where they began. Following are the signs:
- Changes in speech – The patient may hesitate before speaking or may speak quickly or softly or may slur. The speech may become monotone (dull), lacking standard inflections.
- Tremor – One’s limbs, mainly hands and fingers start shaking even when in a relaxed vacation. An important sign is back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, called a pill-rolling tremor.
- Writing changes – One may face difficulty in writing and the letters may appear small.
- Bradykinesia (Slowed movement) – Gradually, the ability of movement and may become slow even in simple tasks. Things like moving a chair or walking become time-taking.
- Weakening of balance and posture – One’s ability of balancing and posture starts weakening.
- Stiffened muscles – The muscles start getting stiffened and there is pain and the range of motion becomes limited.
- Reflex action impediment – Reflex actions like smiling, blinking, swaying of arms, all become impaired, and there is a decreased ability of regular movements like gestures.
How can it be diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, there are no lab tests. The doctor bases the diagnosis on symptoms along with a neurological examination that is inclusive of a test of patient’s body movements, reflex movements and co-ordination of actions. It is advisable that before visiting a doctor, you can prepare a list of symptoms that might help him. There may also be certain tests like MRI scan, CT scan, urine or blood test.
What is the treatment?
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there are various medications and other treatment, which can prove to be helpful in treating the symptoms.
- Medication– Some of the common medicines are Entacapone (Comtan), Dopamine agonists, Levodopa/Carbidopa (Sinemet) and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
- Surgical treatment – The most common surgical treatment is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), where a wire is placed into the brain, connecting it to the pacemaker kind of device right below the skin in the chest. This surgery brings reduction in shakiness, slow movements and rigidity in muscles. However, like other surgeries, there is a risk of infection.
Here are a few self-help tips that may make the patient’s life easier:
- It will be helpful if you gain more information about your problem. It will help you in coping-up.
- It is very important that you should keep stress levels really low as tension may worsen your symptoms worse.
- You may try out physical therapy.
- Do not stay aloof. You should always be around your loved ones that will bring down the feeling of depression in you.
- Exercising can help you a lot in reducing the symptoms and stress levels, consequently, keeping you in a good mood.
By endorsing the following safety tips, you can keep at bay several accidents that may occur due to the impediment in balance and lack of coordination:
- A home safety evaluation can be arranged by your doctor.
- Wear comfortable shoes and slippery slippers are a complete no-no.
- Instead of using throw rugs, use carpets that are sticking properly to the floor.
- The floors should not be slippery.
- Keep a stool or a chair in your bathroom for bathing and put bars on the in the tub, if you are using one.
- Have easy-to-reach cabinets in kitchen that contain daily supplies.
- The stairs should be properly lit.
- The hallways, lobby and bathrooms should have Nightlights.
Tips for diet and eating
A patient with Parkinson’s disease experiences difficulty chewing and swallowing food. The following may help you:
- After having your meal, you should sit straight for at least 30 minutes.
- Food should be cut into smaller pieces, which gets easy to chew and digest.
- If your stomach gets upset because of medication, eat small portions of non-protein based food.
- If you high-protein diet, you must avoid taking levodopa (Sinemet), within 30 minutes of your meal.