Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects voluntary movement.
Symptoms vary person to person and typically affect one side of the body first even as they worsen. Early signs are mild and go unnoticed.
The general symptoms of Parkinson's disease include:
- Tremor - Tremor in a limb, often in the hand or fingers at rest, a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as "pill-rolling"
- Slowed voluntary movement (bradykinesia) - Reduced ability to move and walk, and dragging feet with smaller steps as well as difficulty in rising from sitting/getting out of a bed/chair
- Orthostatic hypotension - Lightheadedness or dizzy when standing
- Rigid muscles - Muscle stiffness and abnormal tone in the body limiting your motion and causing pain
- Impaired posture and balance - Stooped posture, unsteady balance
- Loss of automatic movements - Decreased facial movement like blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk
- Dysarthria - Difficulty in speaking and speech-related problems like speaking softly, quickly, with a slur or hesitation, monotonous without inflections
- Dysphagia - Difficulty in swallowing
- Writing changes - Difficulty to write, and writing may appear small.
Risk factors for Parkinson's disease are:
- Age - The disease starts after middle age, usually around 60 or older.
- Heredity - Chances are high if someone in the family has it
- Sex - Men are more susceptible than women.
- Exposure to toxins - Prolonged exposure to herbicides and pesticides
- There's no specific test
- Complete Medical history with review of signs and symptoms, complete with a neurological and physical examination
- Blood tests to rule out other conditions
- Imaging tests - such as MRI, Ultrasound of the brain, SPECT and PET scans
Parkinson's disease can be treated with:
- Medications - There are drugs that significantly improve symptoms of walking, movement and tremor.
- Speech therapy - See a speech pathologist/therapist to work around difficulty in speaking and in swallowing
- Guided Imagery - Where positive mental images are used to relax and influence the way you feel.
- Physical and Occupational Therapy - Lifestyle changes of physical exercise and therapy to practise balance and stretching.
- Surgical Procedures - Gamma Knife Treatment and Deep Brain Stimulation (or DBS)