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Parkinson Disease

Parkinson Disease Defined

Parkinson’s disease (PD) concerns with the progressive degenerative disorder of the brain brought about through the depletion or impairment of certain brain cells that are responsible for our movement control. Parkinson disease typically sets in once one hit 60 years of age and over and men are more likely than women to fall prey to this brain disorder.

The tell-tale symptoms of PD are pretty well defined, though not exclusive to Parkinson Disease and they are: shaking hands, arms, legs, face and jaw, stiffness of the trunk, arms and legs, slowness of movement, and impaired balance and coordination. These symptoms first appeared as nothing more than minor inconveniences. Slowly, but surely, they will become progressively worse and ultimately results in difficulty in walking, talking, swallowing, chewing and carrying out the simplest tasks among the patients. The other observed symptoms associated Parkinson disease include anxiety, depression, constipation, urinary problems (incontinence or retention), dry or oily skin, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, sleep problems, and muscle or joint pain.

The hereditary nature of Parkinson disease

While it is established that Parkinson disease is the result of the death or impairment of certain brain cells responsible for dopamine production (a critical brain chemical that concerns with the regulation of purposeful movement), there is no conclusive findings regarding what actually causes their death or impairment. Both scientists and researchers have often cited genetic and environmental factors being culpable of this degenerative disease, but to date, no one is able to adequately explain how each of these factors (genes, toxins and certain viruses) or how they collectively can exert such influences that lead to these outcomes.

There is no known cure for PD now. We are just fortunate that it is not a fatal disorder and there appears to be a number of treatments to relieve the symptoms effectively. Medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson Disease fall into 3 categories: 1) drugs that work by increasing the brain levels of dopamine or by mimicking its action (e.g. dopamine precursors such as levodopa, MAO inhibitors, dopamine agonists); 2) drugs that work by affecting the levels of other brain chemicals involved in the control of movement (e.g. anticholinergic drugs); 3) medications used to control the non-motor symptoms of PD (e.g. antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs).

Levodopa (a dopamine precursor) has been widely known for its effectiveness in relieving the motor symptoms of PD, and for this reason, it is widely credited to be the top choice of PD treatment options. Nevertheless, one should never lose sight of the fact that levodopa does not cure or halt the track of this disease, even though it is most effective to reduce tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement. It generally works excellently at the onset of PD.

On the other side of coin, prolonged use of levodopa in large dose would likely result in hallucinations, psychosis and involuntary movements like muscle spasms or twitches. Another commonly observed problem is that it would lose its effectiveness with patients (under usual doses of levodopa), as PD progresses. When such a situation (that is when levodopa introduces severe side effects or it is no longer as effective) is forced onto patients, surgical treatment might have to be the next real alternative. As it is now, surgical option credited to bring about the most improvement is arguably the deep brain stimulation. This procedure requires the implantation of electrodes into certain portions of the brain so that the brain can be stimulated in such a way that stops PD motor symptoms from happening. Regardless, it is important to be clear that deep brain stimulation, just as levodopa treatment, is not a cure, but merely part of processes to bring about relief to PD symptoms.

As Parkinson Disease can affect patients over long time, long-term treatment is required. It is advisable also that you are sufficiently covered by an international health insurance plan so that you are protected from any associated treatment fee in case you suffer from Parkinson disease in the future.