About a million people in the United States have parkinson’s disease, a condition that can lead to tremor, slow movements, rigid limbs, and a shuffling gait. Symptoms of the disorder occur when brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that helps control movement, die or become damaged. While experts do not know exactly what causes the disease, they suspect that it happens when proteins that make up cell membranes and other structures do not fold properly. As a result, proteins build up in clumps or tangles that block the movement of nerve cells and prevent them from sending signals to control body movements.
While there is no cure for the disease, medications can improve most symptoms and help people continue to do their everyday activities. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.
Your doctor can provide you with more information about the different treatments for parkinson’s disease. They will also tell you what side effects or complications you may experience, depending on the treatment.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that gets worse over time. It is caused when nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become damaged. These neurons make dopamine, a substance that carries messages between parts of the brain and nervous system that help control and coordinate movement. When dopamine is present, nerve cells that control movement fire off more messages to control smooth body movements. In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine levels decline and this disrupts normal movement.
Symptoms of the disease typically start in one limb on one side of the body and often affect your balance and mobility. Symptoms tend to get worse over time and can affect both sides of the body as the disease progresses. They include tremor, shaky walking, difficulty moving your arms and legs, poor posture, and problems with swallowing. You might also have trouble blinking, and your handwriting may be small or cramped. Other symptoms of the disease include drooling and mask-like facial expressions.
Most people with parkinson’s disease do not have a family history of the condition. They usually develop it spontaneously, although some people may be a carrier of the gene mutation that can cause the disease. The risk for developing the disease increases with age.
Most doctors treat the tremors of parkinson’s with medicines that are designed to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. They will often prescribe other medications that help control symptoms and reduce side effects, such as antidepressants, antibiotics, and drugs to help with constipation or bladder issues. They will also offer physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy based on your needs. In more advanced stages of the disease, they might recommend deep brain stimulation. During this procedure, electrodes are placed in the brain and connected to a device implanted in the chest that painlessly stimulates the parts of the brain that control movement. This can decrease the need for medication and improve some of the shaky movements of the disease.