What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years, according to the NHS website.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS says there are three main symptoms, including tremors, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness.
Other symptoms include balance problems, loss of smell, nerve pain, excessive sweating, and dizziness.
Some people may also experience lack of sleep, excessive saliva production, and swallowing problems, leading to malnutrition and dehydration.
What are the first signs?
Symptoms may begin gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in a single part of the body.
In the early stages, people may show little or no expression and their arms may not swing when they walk.
Speech may also become soft or slurred, and the condition worsens over time.
What are the causes?
Some scientists believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause Parkinson’s disease.
It occurs after a person experiences the loss of nerve cells in a part of their brain.
However, it is not known why the loss of nerve cells associated with the condition occurs, but research is underway to identify possible causes.
Scientists say that the genetic factor may increase the risk of a person developing the disease and therefore may be hereditary.
Other factors attributed to the cause of the condition include environmental problems such as pollution, although such links are inconclusive, the NHS says.
How is it diagnosed?
No test can conclusively show whether a person has the disease, but doctors can make a diagnosis based on symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination.
A specialist will ask the person to write, draw, walk, or talk to look for common signs of the condition.
They can even check for difficulty making facial expressions and slowness in limb movement.
How many people are affected?
According to the charity Parkinson’s UK, around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s disease in the UK.
What happens if someone is diagnosed?
According to the charity, it is a legal requirement to contact the DVLA as a diagnosed person will need to undergo a medical or driving assessment.
The organization also advises people to contact any insurance provider and obtain information about the financial support available.
People are also encouraged to exercise more.
Can it be treated?
Although there is no cure, there are several treatments available to help reduce symptoms.
The main remedies include medication, exercise, therapy and surgery, which can help people in different ways.
What medications are available and what are the side effects?
Medication may be helpful in improving the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors and movement problems.
There are three main types commonly used: levodopa, dopamine agonist, or MAO-B inhibitor. Each can affect people in different ways.
The medications have some side effects, such as impulsive and compulsive behavior, hallucinations, sleeping problems, and changes in blood pressure.
What therapy is available?
There are several therapies available for those suffering from Parkinson’s through the NHS.
These include physical therapy to reduce muscle stiffness, occupational therapy to help complete daily tasks, and speech and language training.
Does this change your way of living?
The life expectancy of most people will not change much, although more advanced symptoms may lead to greater disability and poor health.
It can also cause some cognitive problems and changes in mood and mental health.
People with Parkinson’s are encouraged to exercise more frequently, and scientists say that 2.5 hours of exercise a week is enough to slow the progression of symptoms.