About Parkinson's disease (PD)
What Is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson disease (PD), documented in 1817 by physician James Parkinson, in his Essay on the Shaking Palsy, is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease.
It is a chronic, progressive, neurological disease that destroys the cells in the mid brain which produce "dopamine", one of the chemicals that transmits movement control signals. When approximately 80% of these cells no longer produce dopamine, one or more of PD's primary movement symptoms begin to appear: resting tremor; slowness of movement; stiffness; and/or gait or balance problems. Other symptoms such as small cramped handwriting, lack of arm swing, and decreased facial expression may appear.
It is estimated that some people with PD may also experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety attacks, or cognitive impairment. In addition, certain functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system may become affected, such as respiratory, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal. Every patient is different and may not experience all of the above symptoms.
How Many People Get PD?
It is estimated that 50,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year. There are about one million people in the US living with the disease. Estimates vary due to the fact that there is no objective test for Parkinson's thus making the rate of misdiagnosis high.
Who Can Get PD?
PD strikes about 50 percent more men than women, but the reason for this discrepancy is unclear. While it occurs in people throughout the world, a number of studies have found a higher incidence in developed countries possibly because of increased exposure to pesticides or other toxins in those countries.
The average onset age is 60 years and the incidence rises significantly with increasing age. However about five to ten percent of people with PD have "early onset" disease that begins before the age of 50.
What is the Treatment for PD?
Parkinson’s disease can be effectively managed with medication, lifestyle choices, and, in some cases, surgery.
Since motor symptoms of PD are caused by decreased dopamine levels in the brain, most medications are aimed at replenishing or mimicking the action of dopamine, and can be very effective in controlling the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Other types of medications are used to treat the non-motor symptoms.
Patients benefit from taking an active role in their healthcare. Daily exercise, proper diet and cognitive stimulation are very important aspects in the treatment regimen. In addition, taking steps to maintain mental well-being results in more effective management of the disease.
For more advanced patients, surgical placement of a deep brain simulator can be useful.
All patients should discuss their treatment options with their physician or a Movement Disorder Specialist, a neurologist specializing in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Is There a Cure for Parkinson’s Disease?
At this time, there is no known cause, cure, or prevention for Parkinson’s disease. The Parkinson Association of Northern California supports ongoing research for those affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Sources for this page include:
Parkinson Association of Northern California
Parkinson's Foundation of the National Capitol area. About Parkinson's Disease . Retrieved from http://parkinsonfoundation.org/about-parkinsons-disease