The progressive disorder of the nervous system that specifically causes problem with the movements such as writing and walking is termed as Parkinson's disease. The disease progresses at a slow rate that starts with hardly noticeable tremors in one hand. Though these tremors are considered as the most significant symptom of this disease, this disorder usually results in stiffness or slowing of the movement. Parkinson's disease affects a large number of people especially who are above 50 years of age. Sometimes this disease is also seen in young people between the age group of 21-40 and is termed as 'Young Onset Parkinson's Disease.
Parkinson's disease results in many symptoms and affects people in different ways. Its symptoms could be mild or severe and the disease is divided into five stages.
Stage 1: This is the initial stage of Parkinson's disease and in this patient has mild symptoms. A patient in during this stage experiences shaking in one of the limbs. Tremors also develop in this initial stage. Abnormal facial expressions, poor posture and loss of balance are some of the typical changes in a patient suffering from this disease.
Stage 2 : During the second stage, the symptoms are bilateral that affects both sides of the body and limbs. A patient can face problems while maintaining balance or walking. Another striking symptom could be the inability to complete normal physical tasks.
Stage 3 : This stage is marked with severe symptoms such as the inability to stand or walk straight. A patient's physical activity slows down in the third stage.
Stage 4 : At this stage, a patient develops severe symptoms. There could be little walking which is usually limited. It has been seen that patients are not able to do their routine tasks and are not able to live independently. Shakiness or tremors may lessen for unidentified reasons.
Stage 5 : There is no physical movement in this final stage. A patient may not be able to walk or stand. Constant medical care is required at this stage.
The deterioration or impairment of the nerve cells (neurons) in the area of the brain is called as substantia nigra that causes Parkinson's disease. When these neurons functions normally they produce dopamine which is an essential brain chemical. Dopamine allows communication between corpus striatum (another area of the brain) and substantia nigra. The muscle movement is coordinated properly with this communication. When there is no dopamine then there is abnormal nerve functioning and causes inability to control body movements.
Tremors: These tremors usually appear in the fingers, chin, hands, mouth, forearms and foot.
Poor Balance: The reason for poor balance is the loss of reflexes that maintain posture. It typically results in unsteady balance that leads to fall.
Slow movement (Bradykinesia): It slows down the voluntary movement that includes walking, sitting up and standing up. This is due to delay in transmission signals through the brain to the muscles. It can cause difficulty in initiating walking and in serious cases can result in freezing episodes once walking has started.
Rigidity: Stiff muscles or rigidity generates muscle pain which increases during movement.
The diagnosis of Parkinson's disease does not involve any lab tests. The diagnosis is done by performing a organized neurological exam. This test includes testing of the reflexes and also observes balance, muscle strength throughout the body, coordination and other details of movement. Narrowing of the spinal canal, nerve dysfunction and other types of tremors can be ruled out by performing these tests. In order to examine other disorders, urine tests, blood test, MRI or CT scan can also be required.
Parkinson's disease can be treated with the help of some specific medications. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is one of the most common surgical procedures for those patients who are suffering from Parkinson's disease. This surgery helps in slowing the movements and reduces the severity of muscle rigidity. During the surgical procedure, a wire inside the brain is connected with a pacemaker type device which is implanted under the skin in the chest.
Other treatments for Parkinson's disease can help a patient to keep safe and healthy that includes -
Exercise : Regular exercising can ease the symptoms of this disease. Some studies has revealed that patients who do regular exercising do better than who don't. Physical exercise that increases the heart rate is considered as beneficial.
Group Wellness Programs : By the means of these programs, depression and isolation of the patient suffering from this severe disease is reduced.
Physical Therapy : Along with physical exercises, physical therapies have also proved beneficial.