What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder affecting the brain and nerves that progressively worsens over time. It is associated with generalised slowing of body movements and symptoms such as tremors at rest and stiffness of arms and legs.
What causes Parkinson's disease?
What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?
A tremor in the hands and legs while at rest is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The tremor typically occurs on one side and disappears while performing tasks such as lifting a pen, but returns when the hands and fingers are not moving. Parkinson’s disease affects each person differently and not everyone necessarily experiences tremors. The other symptoms include –
- Stiffness of hands and legs
- Loss of smell
- Sleep disturbances – acting out to dreams (often unpleasant ones) with vocal sounds and violent hand and leg movements
- Changes in mood and depression
- Increased salivation and drooling
- General slowness of body movements (taking longer to do simple tasks)
- Inability to walk steadily
- Progressive reduction in the size of handwriting
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Retention of urine
- Erectile dysfunction
How is Parkinson's disease diagnosed?
Is Parkinson's disease curable? What are the treatments for Parkinson's disease?
There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, there are treatments that help in reducing the symptoms –
- Medicines (levodopa, carbidopa, selegiline etc.) – These medicines offer symptom relief for an average of 3-6 years after which the disease begins to progress again and the person becomes unresponsive to medicines
- Supportive therapies – Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy help the patients to cope with the disease in their day-to-day lives
- Deep brain stimulation – Through a surgical procedure electrodes are inserted into certain parts of the brain. The electrodes are connected through wires to a small electrical device implanted in the chest. These stimulate areas of the brain that regulate movements and thus reduce symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement
Am I a candidate for deep brain stimulation?
Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure that works to reduce specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (it’s important to note that it’s not a curative treatment). It can be a treatment option for you if –
- You’ve had Parkinson’s for longer than 4 years
- The prescribed medicines are not having much success in controlling your symptoms
- You have excessive, uncontrolled abnormal movements
You may not be a candidate for DBS if you’re suffering from memory loss. Further, DBS doesn’t help you with balance problems and non-motor issues such as decreased smell.
Your doctors will examine your disease status and the medicines that you are taking. You will also be required to undergo a brain scan, and a memory and thinking test to evaluate your cognitive abilities.
How do I manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?
- Take your medicines as prescribed
- Go for supportive therapy
- Exercise – This eases muscle rigidity, improves strength, and helps with flexibility and balance
- Diet – Eat healthy foods that have high fibre content and consume sufficient water to help with constipation
- Join a support group – Since Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that worsens over time, being part of a support group may help you share your experiences and difficulties with people who can empathise with you
What are the side effects of medicines taken to treat Parkinson's disease?
Some side effects of anti-Parkinson’s medicines are –
- Abdominal pain
- On-off effect on long-term use (abrupt change from being able to move (on) to being immobile (off))
- Dry mouth
If you have severe side effects, inform your doctor. Your physician may prescribe a medicine that is more suitable for you.
What are the risk factors for Parkinson's disease?
- Older age
- Exposure to pesticides, herbicides
- Living in close proximity to industrial plants