Parkinson’s Disease is a central nervous system disorder that causes cell loss in the part of the brain that regulates movement. It gained a spotlight in the media in recent years, partially due to the efforts of Michael J. Fox. He rose as an actor diagnosed with the disease in 1991 at the age of 29.

Many genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disease. These factors eventually drive out the nigral neurons in the brain’s substantia nigra. The nigra sends dopamine to the striatum to facilitate movement. When nigral neurons act gone, you lose your motor functions. This causes tremors, rigidity, slow movements, and other Parkinson’s symptoms.

The Parkinson’s Disease Intermittent Causes

Brain Comparison of People with Parkinson's Disease and those who doesn't have

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, BruceBlaus, via Wikipedia Commons

A small percentage of people with a family history of PD develop the disease. However, most people with a family member who owns got an increased risk for the condition.

Men more likely get to develop this illness than women.

Adults over 50 remain more prone to develop this disease. This comes only recognized risk factor for Parkinson’s Disease. But, not early-onset PD. The condition appears in some individuals from age 30 to 50. Also, in people under 30 in rare instances.

Gene Mutations

Only ten percent of cases happen to be linked to genetics. For most people, this disease exists as idiopathic. This means that the origin seems unknown. Researchers think environmental and genetic factors cause the onset of this neurodegenerative disorder.

As Idiopathic

Most cases of Parkinson’s happen to be called as idiopathic or sporadic. Similarly, the cause remains unknown. Researchers believe onset exists due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The disorder also occurs because of another disease, repeated head trauma or use of drugs that block the neurotransmitter Dopamine. This happens as an older adult or relatives with the disease. Probably, you got an increased risk of developing this neurological disorder.

What Reseach Says

Woman Scientist Studying the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter thought to be involved in Parkinson's disease

Image: CC by 2.0, OIST, via Flickr

In 1997, researchers from the National Institutes of Health conducted research. They found that mutations in a gene called SNCA. These ran in families with a high incidence of Parkinson’s Disease. Many other genes influencing the disease got identified since then.

In 2004, scientists discovered a mutation in the LRRK2 gene. The purpose sought to contribute to one to two percent of all cases of this disorder. Mutations in the LRRK2 gene contribute to the disease in people of Ashkenazi Jewish, Basque and North African Arab Berber backgrounds.

Lewy Bodies

Researchers discovered the presence of Lewy bodies, substances in brain cells that “mark” the disease.  Scientists believe these markers hold a clue to what causes the illness.

A protein called alpha-synuclein (A-synuclein) happens as the most important substance in Lewy bodies. It occurs in a clumped form, and cells can’t break it down. More research on A-synuclein provides a breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of the illness.

Early Onset for PD

scientist discusses her research about Parkinson's Disease with a participant on a conference

Image: CC by 2.0, Daniel Soñé Photography, LLC by NCATS, via Flickr

Family history comes as a risk factor for early-onset PD. This less-common disease occurs in people under 50 years old. Loss of motor skills occurs in younger patients, just like older ones. Changes in nonmotor functions happen first in younger patients. These changes include:

  • Loss of smell
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • REM Behavior Disorder
  • Low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) when you stand up

Toxins

Toxins got suspected as one of the causes of PD. Several 21st Century studies confirm this notion. A study published in the journal Neurology and a 2000 meta-analysis exposes this. Also, it indicates some pesticides contribute to the tremor-inducing neurological disease.

A 2006 study revealed patients exposed to pesticides showed a 70% higher rate of the condition than others in the study. Besides, the risk meant the same for farmers and other participants.

Furthermore, a job that exposes you to Agent Orange and chemical solvents make you prone for it. Also, for polychlorinated biphenyls, you got an increased risk of PD.

Symptoms

Two Old-Aged People with Parkinson’s Disease Intermittent Causes

Image: CC by 2.0, Andrew Bone, via Flickr

Parkinson’s disease symptoms differ from person to person. It occurs initially mild since they go unnoticed. The symptoms appear on one side of your body and then affect the other side. Next, symptoms get worse on one side of the body than the other. Usually, the side that shows the symptoms first.

Face and Speech

When Parkinson’s Disease first appears, your face gets a neutral look or expressionless look. Hereafter, you slur your speech, speak in a monotone with a softer voice.

Movement

Your hand or fingers start to shake, even when you’re resting. Hence, there exists a pill-rolling tremor or involuntary rubbing of your forefinger and thumb in a back-and-forth motion.

As the disease progresses, it slows your movement. Performing simple tasks take longer. So, you take shorter steps when you walk or drag your feet when you walk.

Muscles

Muscle stiffness that causes pain and limits your range of motion.

You develop a stooped posture or develop problems with balance.

Later, you experience difficulties blinking and swinging your arms. This happens when you walk, smile, or perform other automatic movements.

Mental Health

In the late stages of PD, you tend to develop problems with your cognitive function (dementia). Then, these thinking difficulties need successful treatment with medication.

Sleep Disorders and Less Noticeable Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Men and Women Sleep Deprived on an Airport Waiting for the Flight Going Home who are also prone to Parkinson's Disease

Image: CC by 2.0, Dov Harrington, via Flickr

The wide range of sleep disorders includes nightmares, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. TheREM sleep behavior disorder precedes tremors and other more apparent symptoms.

Accordingly, a UCLA study found similarities between narcolepsy and this disease. They both cause the brain to lose orexin/hypocretin (Hcrt) cells.

Unusually, fatigue and depression with other symptoms do not come immediately as an attributable to the disease.

Making Life Easier   

Here comprise some ways you do to improve your quality of life with PD.

Food and Diet

Eat a diet with fresh, whole foods. Keep your kitchen stocked with fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, legumes, poultry, low-fat dairy and lean, organic meats.

Thus, broccoli, bananas, and other high-fiber foods imply importantly to curb constipation. Therefore, this often accompanies this neurodegenerative disease. Avoid processed and junk foods.

Exercise

Exercise and do physical therapy to regain your strength. Incorporate stretching or yoga, aerobic activity, and resistance training into your daily routine.  People in the first stages of PD are as physically fit as other people their age. As the disease worsens, you need to replace some of the exercises with less strenuous ones.

Try to move at a slow or moderate pace when you walk. Make your heel strike the floor before the front of your foot. If you are shuffling instead of walking normally, check your posture. Stand up straight.

Body Movements

Prevent falls in the later stages of the illness. Do this by making a U-turn when you move instead of rotating your body over your feet. Don’t lean and distribute your weight evenly on both feet. Avoid carrying things. Have a friend or family member carry groceries and other items for you.

Modify the layout of your home so it will be easier to hold on to furniture as you move around the house.

Diagnosis and Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

Parkinson's disease ridden grandfather with a towel on the head

Image: CC by 2.0, cjalallian, via Flickr

There exists no official test to determine if you have PD. Your doctor may order blood tests or imaging tests (MRI, pet scan, etc.) to rule out other diseases. Hence, he or she review your medical history and conduct a neurological and physical exam.

Some doctors may give you a dose of the medication carbidopa-levodopa. If your symptoms improve, it confirms that you have the illness.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Consequently, medication improves walking, tremors, and movement by substituting for the neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain. People with this illness have low amounts of dopamine in their brains.

Medications for Parkinson’s Disease

the gait of a patient receiving treatment for Parkinson's disease is being observed at the Medical Department

Image: Public Domain US, U.S. Department of Energy, Flickr

Here are a few medications currently prescribed to patients:

Carbidopa-levodopa

Luckily, this comes as a natural chemical that converts into dopamine when it enters your brain. Side effects include nausea and lightheadedness. The medication may be less effective as the disease worsens.

You develop dyskinesia (involuntary movements) if your dose is too high. Your physician will adjust the dose if this occurs.

A Carbidopa-levodopa infusion is administered through a feeding tube. So, the gel medicine enters the small intestine and is given to people with an advanced form of the disease.

MAO-B inhibitors

These prevent the dopamine in your brain from breaking down. The monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) enzyme metabolizes dopamine in your brain.

Further, when an MAO-B inhibitor is used with carbidopa-levodopa, patients may have hallucinations. Less serious side effects are insomnia or nausea. You shouldn’t take antidepressants or narcotics with this medication. Plus, the combination can cause dangerous side effects.

Dopamine agonists

Dopamine agonists imitate dopamine in your brain. Further, they are longer-lasting than Carbidopa-levodopa, but not as effective. Most agonists are taken by mouth. Additionally, one of the medications, rotigotine, comes prescribed as a patch under the brand name Neupro. A fast-acting injectable version (apomorphine aka Apokyn) is also available.

Parkinson’s Disease Prevention

Old Man as he finds freedom on his three-wheeler though walking is a burden from Parkinson's disease

Image: CC by 2.0, OakleyOriginals, via Flickr

Ultimately, there is no set way to prevent PD since scientists only have theories about the cause. Eat well, exercise, and keep your mind active through hobbies and learning new things to protect your overall health. Hence, be aware of your family medical history and visit your doctor for regular check-ups.

Most notably, some studies show that caffeine helps manages some of the disease’s non-motor symptoms. Also, green tea which contains some caffeine lower the risk of developing this neurodegenerative disorder.

Accordingly, this comes as a study published in Biological Psychiatry. Ultimately, the antioxidant polyphenols in green tea found to protect dopamine neurons from breaking down.

 

Featured Image: Public Domain US, agilemktg1, Flickr

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