BY: Ria Fazulbhoy (MSIWM031)
Parkinson disease is a disease related to the nervous system and nerve damage. It drastically affects the patient and progressively worsens over time. The progression takes place in 5 stages, which go from low risk symptoms to more drastic ones. It affects over 100,000 people worldwide each year. At present, approximately more than 10 million people suffer from this disease. However, it is noticed that men have a higher chance of developing the disease, a reason not clear as yet. Other factors like genetics, environmental cues (like exposure to toxins), age, etc can also play a role in the development of PD.
What happens in Parkinson’s disease
- Parkinsons affects the central nervous system and the brain.
- It mainly affects a region in the brain, in the basal ganglia, which is known as substantia nigra.
- Substantia nigra consists of some cells which produce the chemical hormone and neurotransmitter, dopamine – the feel good hormone.
- Dopamine is an extremely important catecholamine in the brain which is responsible for various cues, functions, carrying chemical messages and also contributes to the pleasure pathway i.e how we feel positive emotions like joy, satisfaction and pleasure.
- In Parkinson disease, the levels of dopamine in a individual drop due to the death of cells which produce dopamine and are present in substantia nigra.
- When these dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal activity of the brain, which in turn leads to severe symptoms like impaired movement, depression, sleeping problems, etc.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
The signs and symptoms generally differ from patient to patient. Early signs are almost always undetectable, and the disease is diagnosed most commonly in the later stages. Sometimes, symptoms can be present only on one side of the body (left or right), remain severe on this side and eventually spread to the rest of the body. Parkinson’s disease symptoms include:
- Tremors: Patients often feel tremors in their limbs such as hands, fingers and legs. Can later also occur in jaws and tongue. It becomes progressively worse and can also cause problems in daily life activities such as eating, bathing, wearing clothes etc.
- Impaired balance and posture: Posture becomes topped, and patients find it hard to keep balance. External help and support is required in the later stages.
- Depression and bad dreams: Owing to the decreased levels of dopamine in the brain, and other attributes such as loss of physical control over body, slow movement and psychological effects can lead to depression and other personality disorders. This is accompanied with anxiety, fear and loss of motivation.
- Changes in talking and speech: In some cases, the speech of the patient can become highly affected. It becomes slurry, soft, sometimes quiet, other times slow, and is expressionless and monotonous.
- Bradykinesia (slowed movement) : Simple tasks like walking, sitting, eating become time consuming and movement becomes slowed. Steps might get shorter. External help and assistance is needed.
Treatment and prevention
Unfortunately, as of today, there is no complete solution or cure for the complete recovery from Parkinson’s disease Intense research work is being done in labs across the globe to find a solution for the same. Symptoms and side effects can be used by the intake of prescription drugs (like anti depressants), dopaminergics, muscular antagnostics, etc. Physical exercise can also help keep the body moving and fit. Life expectancy can increase with proper care and attention towards the patient.