Early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Age is the largest risk factor for the development of the condition as most people who develop it are older than 60 years.

Symptoms start gradually, sometimes with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand Samsung Annicol. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression, your arms may not swing when you walk, or your speech may become soft or slurred. Symptoms worsen as your condition progresses.

Risk factors

  • Family history of the disorder
  • Head trauma
  • Illness
  • Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides and herbicides.

Cause

A substance called dopamine acts as a messenger between two brain areas: the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum. In a healthy brain, this communication produces smooth, controlled movements.

Most of the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a lack of dopamine, caused by damage or loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra.

When the amount of dopamine is too low, communication between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum becomes ineffective, and movement becomes impaired. The greater the loss of dopamine, the worse the movement-related symptoms.

Other cells in the brain also degenerate to some degree as the disease progresses and may also contribute to non-movement related symptoms.

While it’s understood that the lack of dopamine causes the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it’s not clear why the dopamine-producing brain cells deteriorate.

Genetic and pathological studies have revealed that various dysfunctional cellular processes, inflammation, and stress can all contribute to cell damage.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over years and progression of symptoms varies from one person to another.

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Primary symptoms include:

  • Tremor, especially in finger, hand or foot
  • Stiffness
  • Slowness
  • Impaired balance
  • Cramped handwriting
  • Uncontrollable movements during sleep
  • Limb stiffness or slow movement
  • Voice changes
  • Rigid facial expression or masking
  • Stooped posture

Experiencing any of these early stage symptoms is a sign to see a doctor to slow disease progression.

Secondary symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dementia

There are typical patterns of progression in Parkinson’s disease that are defined in stages.

Stage 1. Symptoms are mild and don’t interfere with the quality of life.

Stage 2. Symptoms worsen, daily activities become more difficult and take longer to complete.

Stage 3. Patients experience a loss of balance, slow movements and falls. Symptoms impair daily activities like dressing, eating, and brushing teeth.

Stage 4. Symptoms become severe and patients need assistance with walking and performing daily activities.

Stage 5. This is the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. The individual is unable to walk and will need full time assistance.

Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications can significantly improve symptoms.

Occasionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms. With treatment, most individuals with Parkinson’s disease can live long, productive lives.

What can you do if you have Parkinson’s disease?

Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. You doctor may suggest:

  • A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specialises in the brain.
  • Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist.
  • Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life.
  • A regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.
  • You talk with and involve family and friends who can provide you with the support you need.

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