Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder. It is caused by the loss of brain cells responsible for muscle control. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that causes tremor, muscle rigidity, impaired balance, slowness of movement and other symptoms. The disease is common in people over the age of 50. It is incurable but there are treatments available for relief from the symptoms.
Parkinson’s Disease Overview
Parkinson’s disease develops when the nerve cells that produce dopamine get damaged and die. Dopamine is a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that allows smooth and controlled movement of muscles. Due to loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, production of this neurotransmitter is reduced which results in impaired movement.
Exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but scientists believe that specific genetic mutations lead to development of the disease. These genetic mutations can be either inherited or triggered by environmental factors such as exposure to toxins and viruses. Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:Tremor or trembling in the hands, arms, legs or headMuscle stiffness or rigiditySlow motion (bradykinesia)Impaired balance or walkingTremor is usually the first symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It usually begins on one side of the body, in one arm or leg. Tremor may become worse when the affected part of the body is at rest. Still, not all patients with Parkinson’s disease experience tremor.
As the disease progresses, all body muscles get affected which may lead to constipation and difficulty swallowing. Balance problems also occur. In advanced stages, the patient develops fixed staring expression and blinking and smiling are diminished. Speech becomes slow and slurred, and voice monotone. Finally, memory problems and loss of mental clarity (dementia) occur as well.
Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are not the same for each patient. They may be mild or severe and occur frequently or occasionally. Parkinson’s disease can be classified into five stages according to the severity of symptoms.
This is the beginning stage of Parkinson’s disease characterized by mild symptoms. Symptoms are typically present on one side of the body and are inconvenient but not disabling. The main symptom in this stage is tremor in one of the limbs. However, friends and family may notice changes in posture, balance and facial expression in the patient.
This next stage causes bilateral symptoms, meaning that both sides of the body are affected. The affected individual typically experiences problems with walking or maintaining balance. There is a minimal disability which causes difficulty completing everyday physical tasks.
At this stage, the patient experiences considerable slowing of movements and impaired ability to walk or stand.
Stage four Parkinson’s disease causes severe symptoms. The patient may still walk but to a limited extent. Muscle rigidity and slow motion are visible but tremor often improves. During this stage, the patient cannot longer live alone because of inability to perform everyday tasks.
The last or end stage of Parkinson’s disease is characterized by complete disability since muscle control and movement are lost. The sufferer cannot stand or walk and requires constant nursing care.