Healthy Living

Predicting Cognitive Decline in Parkinson’s Disease

Predicting Cognitive Decline in Parkinson’s Disease

More than one million Americans (more than 6 million people in the whole world) suffer from Parkinson’s disease affecting them and their loved ones directly on a daily basis. A cure for this condition has not been discovered yet, nevertheless it can be controlled effectively if it is watched properly. Most of the treatments for Parkinson’s disease include the consumption of medication focused on controlling the most frequently symptoms displayed at a physical level. These medications’ main purpose is to reduce all symptoms derived from the loss and death of neuronal cells.

Even though treatments that modify the neurodegenerative process have been found to be effective, they are still under-development, being tested on animals and voluntary prospects.  But while scientists and doctors remain hopeful that an effective medication able to stop and even revert neurologic destruction will be developed sooner or later in a presentation that can be commercialized properly, there are other aspects worrying the community related to Parkinson’s disease and that is the condition’s secondary effects.

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Parkinson’s tends to be a condition many people can live with and even keep on doing the activities they used to do before they were diagnosed with it, this is a common factor especially when the disease is still in its first stages. However, some of its secondary effects can have a great impact on patients’ lives, turning daily routines into a tiresome process, especially because of its impact in the minds of people with the disease.According to some researches the condition may trigger mental problems. The following examples are some of the consequences triggered by Parkinson’s:

  • Progressive memory loss
  • A more difficult and slower intellectual functioning
  • Major problems in the nervous system

Furthermore, it has also been acknowledged that at least 20 percent of people suffering from Parkinson’s have reported to suffer from dementia as well. Meaning that there is an undeniable bond connecting Parkinson’s and mental diseases.

Parkinson’s Role on Emotional Affectation and How it Increases Chances for Other Problems

Researches have spotted Parkinson’s disease as a common cause of emotional instability.  One of the most important researches on this topic was held in Spain, with more than 100,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Said research found Parkinson’s is produced by generation of neurons located in brain’s black substance. It was found that neurons that secrete dopamine tend to be the most affected ones. These cells are important neurotransmitters which among many other things, are in charge of controlling movement and motor skills. When these neurons start being affected, problems such as: rigidity, sudden trembling while body is at rest, noticeable slowness in common movements, sleeping problems such as insomnia, general tiresomeness and even hallucinations.

But an important problem that tends to go unnoticed by most patients and even doctors is the emotional shock that comes along with symptoms once these begin to show up. Psychological aspects are commonly disregarded meaning depression and negative feelings may take over and may give rise to other problems. Researches reflect that depressive feelings are as common as problems related to motor skills. Actually, depressive problems are the second most common symptom related to Parkinson’s disease, followed by cognitive problems and sleeping problems. All these problems that are not directly related to motor skills deterioration.

However, this issue faces another complication because most patients do not communicate they are feeling depression and that is the may reason they tend to go unnoticed since they are so hard to spot when there is no communication on behalf of the patient. Sleeping problems are another common affection, almost half of the patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease have sleeping problems. These ones can cause hallucinations during day and night as well as nocturnal cramps and feeling a frequent necessity of going to the bathroom. All these symptoms can make Parkinson’s disease a much harder condition to live with.

Cognitive Decline in People with Parkinson’s Disease

One of the most important secondary symptoms displayed by people with Parkinson’s is the decline they present in their normal cognitive processes. Most Parkinson’s patients, actually up to an 80% of them all, develop some kind of cognitive decline at a higher or lower level. Decreased dopamine levels in brain’s black substance can be a big part of this issue. How strong said cognitive decline is will depend on the patients. As the exact reasons why some people are more prone to lose neurons that secrete dopamine still remain unknown, some of the factors that must be taken into account regarding said condition are: age, sex and the possibility of having some kind of hereditary syndrome.

However, cognitive decline levels may increase when people do not take medication for Parkinson’s disease. Actually, one of the most recent tests showed that not taking medication can increase the level of cognitive decline from a 22% to a 37% as well as take the chances of having dementia from 1% to 6%. Most participants that enrolled the test application were not treated with any kind of medication for Parkinson’s disease, neither had they been diagnosed with dementia, but all of them had decreased dopamine transmission, which is one of the reasons why cognitive decline is entirely accredited to the drop in dopamine levels on black substance in the brain.

Nevertheless, the level of affection can be easily predicted by testing the patient. These tests evaluate cognitive processes at different levels, focusing aspects such as assess memory, processing speed, executive functions, reflexes, working memory domains and visuospatial. Most of the PD affected people that took the test had a grade lower than 26, which clearly states cognitive decline in the test taker.

Parkinson’s Disease in the Future

As Parkinson’s disease is a multifactorial condition that can vary a lot from one patient to another, it’s difficult to develop a definite cure for the symptoms of each type of patient. Although, they all coincide at one point and it is that they are all a result of brain cells degeneration.

Genetic studies have revealed a 5 to 30% of this condition’s causes may be due to genetic heritage. For this reasons most researches and studies are currently focusing on genetic modification as a way to counter the condition.