Parkinson's disease guide
What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson's disease - is an age-related degenerative brain disease that affects a small area of nerve cells (neurons) in an area of the brain. These cells typically produce a chemical that transmits signals between brain areas. Usually, it coordinates smooth and balanced muscle movements. The disease causes the death of nerve cells, resulting in disturbing body movements. Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disease.
The disease is better known for causing slow movements, tremors, balance problems, etc. Also, Parkinson's disease can cause a wide range of other effects on feelings, thinking, mental health, and more.
The risk of developing Parkinson's disease increases with age, and the average age is 60. Parkinson's disease is generally widespread, ranking second among age-related degenerative brain diseases. Experts evaluate that it affects at least 1% of people over the age of 60 worldwide, or 1 in 500 people with Parkinson's disease.
Symptoms of the disease usually develop slowly over many years. The most well-known symptoms are associated with loss of muscle control. The progression is often slightly different in people due to the variability of the disease. People with Parkinson's disease may experience:
- Bradykinesia - slow movements.
- Tremor - a rhythmic twitching of the muscles that usually occurs when the muscles are resting. This symptom occurs in about 80% of cases of Parkinson's disease.
- Stiffness - is rigidity when moving a part of the body, jerky and erratic movements.
- Unsteady posture or gait - slow movements and stiffness cause a hunched or stooped posture. For example, when walking, the patient uses shorter, shuffling steps and moves his arms less—turning while walking can take several steps.
Diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is mainly a clinical process which relies heavily on the healthcare professional who examines a patient. Some diagnostic and laboratory tests are possible, but they are usually needed to rule out other conditions or specific causes. It includes:
- Blood tests - these tests can help rule out different forms of parkinsonism.
- Computed tomography scan - uses a series of X-rays and a computer to make a three-dimensional nervous system image.
- Magnetic resonance imaging scan - creates a clear image inside the patient's body using a large magnet, radio waves and a computer.
- Positron emission tomography scan - is an injectable radioactive tracer that detects diseased cells; combined scanning creates three-dimensional images for a more accurate diagnosis.
- Genetic testing - is the examination of blood or body fluids for the presence of abnormal chromosomes.
- Spinal tap - a doctor uses a thin needle to take a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
- Biopsy - is the collection of a small skin sample, including the nerves in the skin. They are taken from a point on the back and two points on the leg. Sample analysis helps determine if specific changes may increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
Sometimes it takes time to make the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Therefore, physicians often recommend regular follow-up visits with neurologists trained in movement disorders. It's essential to evaluate the condition and symptoms over time and provide a residual diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
Although research is ongoing, there is currently no known cure for Parkinson's disease. However, medicine has significantly progressed to reduce main symptoms and maintain quality of life. There is no standard cure for Parkinson's disease. Treatment with Parkinson's disease is individual and is based on the signs.
There are many medications available to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but none of them reverses the cause. As a result, people with Parkinson's often take various medications at different doses and other times during the day to help relieve symptoms. Most drugs perform the following actions:
- Dopamine supplements – medications such as Levodopa can increase available levels of dopamine in the brain. It is almost always effective.
- Dopamine mimics - are drugs that have an effect similar to dopamine. Dopamine is the messenger that makes cells act a certain way when a dopamine molecule is attached to them.
- Blockers of dopamine metabolism - the body has natural processes to break down dopamine. Medications that block the breakdown of dopamine in the body allow more dopamine to remain available to the brain.
- Levodopa metabolism inhibitors - drugs slow down the body's processing of Levodopa, helping it work longer.
- Adenosine blockers - block specific cells from using adenosine (a molecule used in various forms throughout the body).
Rehabilitation and supportive care are essential in improving functional independence and, ultimately, quality of life. They include:
- Physiotherapy - procedures and exercises that help increase muscle strength, reduce stiffness and spasms, reduce the risk of falls, etc.
- Occupational therapy - hand therapy using an exercise program and functional activities alone or in groups.
New treatment options
Researchers are exploring other possible treatments for Parkinson's disease. Although they are not widely available, they give good results. Some of the current treatment approaches include:
- Surgical treatment (Deep Brain Stimulation) - an implant device is used to deliver a weak electrical current and thus stimulate those parts of the brain in which there is a malfunction. Deep brain stimulation is used in the later stages of the disease when it is no longer suitable for medical treatment.
- Surgical treatment (MRI-guided focused ultrasound ablation) - is a modern, safe and effective ultrasound procedure for the minimally invasive treatment of tremors in Parkinson's disease. Focused ultrasonic beams heat the affected tissue to 80ºС and significantly affect it (including parts of the brain).
- Stem cell therapy - stem cells attempt to repair damaged neurons and stimulate the formation of new neurons.
- Gene therapy and gene-targeting treatments - these therapies target specific mutations that cause Parkinson's disease. Some also increase the effectiveness of Levodopa or other medicines.
A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is life-changing. Long-term treatment is often required to control the symptoms, and the patient may eventually have to adapt to simple daily tasks.
Statistics and prognosis
Parkinson's disease is life-threatening and can change a person's life forever. The danger of the disease is in the presence of secondary symptoms. One of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease is a fall, which leads to broken bones, concussions, or even more severe complications. The presence of injuries and complications can significantly reduce the patient's life.
The impact of Parkinson's disease on life expectancy has been investigated using the Health Improvement Network (THIN), the UK's largest primary health care database containing over 12 million patients' electronic health records. Comparisons have been made in survival rates with Parkinson's disease up to five years after diagnosis. Mortality rates within 2.5 years of symptom onset were 43%, rising to 75% over the next 2.5 years.
Fortunately, no one has to deal with the disease and symptoms of Parkinson's on their own. Help, support and advice are just a click away. AiroMedical specialists, who own the entire modern base in diseases of the nervous system and neurosurgery, work with the best clinics and doctors to determine the most appropriate and personalized treatment for a patient with Parkinson's disease.
- WebMD: Is it multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease?
- NHS: Living with - Parkinson's disease
- American Parkinson Disease Association: Learning how to manage daily living with Parkinson’s
- Parkinson's Foundation: Statistics
- EPDA: Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s
- International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society: Mortality of People with Parkinson's Disease in a Large UK-Based Cohort Study: Time Trends and Relationship to Disease Duration
- AJMS: Large Study Finds Parkinson Disease US Death Rate Soared 63% Over 20 Years
- Healthline Media : The Best Parkinson’s Disease Blogs of 2021