Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year, and almost 1 million people in the US are living with the disease.
Signs and Symptoms
Motor symptoms (movement-based)
- tremors, also known as shaky movements
- slowed movement
- balance issues
Non-motor symptoms (not movement related)
- cognitive issues like dementia
- mood disorders like depression and anxiety
In most cases, the symptoms start off gradually and then get worse over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, although research shows that there are therapies (yoga and exercise) and medications that can help manage symptoms. Such therapies may also help prevent falls, which is a common side-effect of Parkinson’s due to balance issues.
3 Subtypes of Parkinson’s
Akinetic-rigid: the main symptoms include stiffness, slowed movement, balance issues and gait
Termor-dominant: the main symptom is tremors
Mixed: the main symptoms are a combination of the two above.
Parkinson’s is a nervous system disorder that happens when nerve cells called neurons, in certain parts of the brain are no long making dopamine, which is a chemical in our brain that allows communication. What does dopamine do? It help produce smooth movement throughout your body.
Researchers believe that Lewy bodies, clumps of protein, form inside the nervous system and neurons cannot break them down, leading to the neurons dying — cutting off dopamine and easy communication through the brain.
Genetics: studies say that people with an immediate family member such as a sibling or parent who has Parkinson’s are at greater risk of developing the disease. About 15% of people with Parkinson’s have a known relative with the disease.
Age: the possibility of developing Parkinson’s increases with age, but the average age of those who have developed it has been 60 years old.
Gender: men are 1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women
How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?
Doctors tend to look at the following:
- medical history
- a neurological exam
- blood tests
- brain scans
Stage 1: symptoms are only seen on one side of the body
Stage 2: symptoms are seen on both sides of the body, but balance is still there.
Stage 3: the “middle” stage of the disease. Balance issues are starting to show.
Stage 4: severe disability, but the person is able to continue to walk or stand without assistance.
Stage 5: the person requires a wheelchair due to the disease.
Researchers haven’t proven any ways to prevent Parkinson’s but do believe that having a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk. Having a high-antioxidant diet and regular exercise could help play a part in lowering the risk of developing Parkinson’s.