Parkinson’s Disease: Stages, Prevention & Treatment
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that is induced by a degeneration of nerve cells located in the part of the brain named the substantia nigra, which controls movement. These cells either breakdown, or, die and this significantly impairs the capacity to produce a crucial chemical called dopamine that is associated with movement.
As the disease advances and dopamine decreases, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease become more evident. Indicators of Parkinson’s disease may manifest as tremors or along with the involuntary rhythmic movements of the hands, arms, legs and jaw, gradual loss of spontaneous movement, slowness of movement, stiffness of arms or legs and gait and balance problems.
According to statistics on Parkinson’s News Today, Parkinson’s disease, is the second most common disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. On a global scale, it is estimated that 7 to 10 million people have Parkinson’s disease. The prevalence of the disease surges with age although it can stabilize within those who are older than 80. It’s estimated that roughly 4 percent of patients of Parkinson’s are usually diagnosed before 50.
Studies have shown that men are at a higher risk of developing 1.5 times more than women do. Parkinson’s disease has been known to detrimentally affect and reduce one’s quality of life, making simple interactions be it social or physical more difficult including loss of productivity and raking in expensive medical costs that are often associated with the disease.
THE 5 STAGES
According to Parkinson’s Foundation, there are distinctive patterns of stages that occur in individuals with Parkinson’s disease that are defined in several stages. It is highly individual and impacts everyone differently and symptoms may alter in varying degrees between patients.
During the first stage, the individual will experience slight symptoms that doesn’t impact nor intervene in their day to day activities. Sometimes the symptoms can be so minimal that an individual doesn’t seek medical attention nor can it can it be diagnosed by doctors at times. Tremors and other movements may manifest in only one side of the body along with slight changes in posture, walking and facial expression occur.
In the second stage, symptoms will typically worsen. The physical tremors, rigidity and decrease in facial expressions such as blinking, slurring of speech and imbalanced walking begins to affect both sides of the body. Everyday activities will still be able to be carried out.
The third is stage is considered the mid-stage and is often characterized by a loss of balance and slowness in terms of bodily movement. Diagnosis at this stage can be made. The individual is still independent at this point and will still be able to perform daily tasks such as dressing and eating.
At stage four, Parkinson’s disease has become more severe, limiting and disabling. Individuals at this stage will have difficulty walking and standing without being assisted, and may require a walker. Daily tasks will need assistance and they will not be able to live alone.
Lastly, stage five is the most enervating and advanced stage. The rigidity and stiffness may cause walking and standing to be impossible and will most likely require a wheelchair or be confined to bed. Round the clock assistance will be needed.
While there is currently no known cause for Parkinson’s disease as to why some progress in others and why some do not, there are many theories surrounding the possible causes of Parkinson’s disease in the areas of research including genes, environment and other factors. It is proposed that a genetic mutation adds to the risk of someone procuring Parkinson’s disease rather than directly causing it, however, even when these genetic mutations are present, the odds of Parkinson’s disease developing is considered low.
At the moment, there are 58 mutations that could imply forms of Parkinson’s and some believe that environmental and genetic factors are linked. Some scientists observe that Parkinson’s emerges from an interplay between a person’s genetic composition, daily activities, and their contact with the environment. There is some documentation that speculates the interaction between Parkinson’s disease and the uses of herbicides and pesticides that may produce toxins in the environment that links to dying neurons. Other factors that may lead to Parkinson’s diseases are advanced age, head injuries and being of the male gender.
Today, thanks to research and studies done around the subject of Parkinson’s disease there are several ways of preventing it from taking place. Firstly, embrace organic food. Pesticides and herbicides as mentioned before have been connected to Parkinson’s disease as peak levels of them were found in the brain of individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.
On par with the prior prevention, eating fresh, raw vegetables is the way to go. Studies have shown that a high amount of B vitamin folic acid usually found in vegetables can reduce the significant risk of Parkinson’s disease. Examples of vegetable that are high in folic acid are broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, okra, and collard greens amongst other vegetables. Green tea has also shown to maintain dopamine levels in the brain and slowing the severity of those already diagnosed. In choosing green tea, it’s important to go for higher quality green tea as lower quality brands contains an extreme amount of fluoride which have debilitating effects on the brain.
Next, regular aerobic exercise also reaps wonderful benefits in countering Parkinson’s disease. A research was done at the University of Illinois exhibiting how regular aerobic exercise can improve our overall cognitive health. It was shown that adults of older age who took 40-minute walks three days a week showed an increase in the size of their hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning. Given the importance of exercising and its role in slowing down Parkinson’s disease, it can’t be stressed enough to add exercise activities into our daily routine as it will benefit us in the long run.
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease is focused on relieving and managing the symptoms of this health condition. There is no standard plan in treating Parkinson’s disease as it differs among patients therefore it’s important to work with health professionals to develop an individualized plan. Treatment may range from medication, physical rehabilitation and exercise.
In treatment, the motor and non-motor symptoms are considered.
For motor symptoms, such as tremors, rigidity, postural and Bradykinesia, Levodopa employed with Carbidopa is the best treatment in option for Parkinson’s disease, however, they produce a side effect known as, Dyskinesia which produces atypical involuntary movements. Dopamine agonists and MAO-B inhibitors can be used, though they are less effective compared to Levodopa but they have lesser side effects. Assistive devices such as canes and walkers are beneficial for mobility.
Non-motor symptoms such as impulsive behavior, constipation and sleep problems could be a direct side effect of treating the motor symptoms. Medication, physical therapy and exercise can be used to alleviate the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. When first being diagnosed with the Parkinson’s disease, it can be difficult as there are a multitude of things to learn such as symptoms and treatment but with making healthy choices in our lifestyles we can take control in our lives in the long term.
For more information on Parkinson’s disease, you may search for Malaysian Parkinson disease Association on Facebook, or log onto www.mpda.org.my to visit their website, or reach them at 03-79806685/03-79726683. In Kota Kinabalu, you can find KK Parkinson’s Folk for support by contacting them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KKParkinsonsFolk
Written by Eve Bandusena,
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