Parkinson’s disease is a long-term neurological disorder that mainly affects the body’s movements. This disorder attacks the muscle control; therefore, involuntary movements of a Parkinson’s disease patient are very evident. Most patients have a hard time controlling their balance and movement even when they are standing or sitting down. This disease is considered a progressive disorder since the manifestations of the symptoms may become worse over time. This condition usually affects people with ages ranging from 55 to 75 years old; however, there are cases that young adults can also have this.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
This type of disease is mainly associated with the abnormality in motor skills. Therefore, most people would generalize that the symptoms of this disease are also associated with body movements. Yes, major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are motor symptoms. However, some studies show that non-motor symptoms may also appear ten years or more before actually diagnosing the presence of Parkinson’s disease. Before discussing the non-motor symptoms, let us first familiarize ourselves with the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease may not be immediately diagnosed based on a mere abnormality of some body movements. Diagnosing this disease is usually based on the emergence of several abnormalities in almost all motor skills that the body may take. Now, let us find out what these motor symptoms are.
Tremors: A tremor is an involuntary shaking of one or more parts of the body. It may involve the hands, arms, legs, trunks, face, and even voice. It is also known as oscillation. Tremors are caused by problems in some parts of the brain that control body movements. People with tremors are usually associated with a neurological disorder or condition.
Rigidity of the Muscles: Rigidity is the stiffness of the muscles in various parts of the body. This is caused by the abnormality of the brain parts that are responsible for muscle control. This may appear in the hands, arms, thighs, stomach area, and neck. According to Stanford medicine, muscle rigidity is also associated with hypertonia.
Slow Body Movements: The brain motor cortex is responsible for the major movements of our body. This is also affected when you have Parkinson’s disease. The brain cannot focus on specific movements that body intends to do. The brain cannot fully coordinate with various body parts of the body. This results to the slowness of the body movements.
Difficulty in Walking and Balancing: Another symptom of Parkinson’s disease is the difficulty in walking and balancing. Since there is no proper coordination of the brain and some body parts of the body, walking and balancing will also be affected. There will be difficulty in standing and balancing the body. Normal walking becomes difficult as the brain cannot send messages to the feet and legs properly.
Difficulty in Talking, Eating and Swallowing: Parkinson’s disease patients also have difficulties in eating and swallowing their food. They also find it difficult to talk properly. This is because the brain cannot control the mouth and the tongue.
Now that you are already familiar with the motor symptoms, let us now discuss the possible non-motor symptoms that are also associated with Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms may emerge earlier before diagnosing the presence of Parkinson’s disease.
Depression and Mood Swings: Parkinson’s disease is also associated with dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for sending messages to various parts of the body, as well as the control of behavior, mood, and reactions to pleasure and reward. Because of the deficiency of dopamine, a patient may find it difficult to recognize happiness and may stagnate to depression. The brain may also be confused with the control of the moods due to the abnormal amount of dopamine in our body. This usually results to mood swings.
Difficulties in Remembering: Dopamine is also responsible for our memories. Research shows that the decrease of dopamine also signifies the decrease of the ability to remember or recall our memories. Therefore, suspected patients with Parkinson’s disease may also show a low capability of remembering things.
Loss of Focus: Since the brain cannot immediately retrieve memories, there is also a tendency that suspected patients of Parkinson’s disease may not achieve focus in the things that they do. This is also due to the deficiency or the absence of important neurotransmitter. Some parts of the brain are also greatly affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Immediate Drop of Blood Pressure: There are some patients with Parkinson’s disease who had claimed that when they were still young, they usually feel lightheadedness when they stand up from sitting or lying down. This is also another non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease. This is also known as orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension.
Sleep Disorder: Patients with this disease also claim that before they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, they also experienced some sleep problems. Some patients would say that they still feel sleepy even when they just wake up. Others had mistaken this as sleep apnea. Other patients would say that they had RBD or the rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder.
Excessive Body Wastes: Researchers also found out that excessive bodily wastes is also an early sign of the manifestation of Parkinson’s disease. According to the patients, when they were in their mid-30’s and early 40’s, they noticed the increase of their dandruff which is also known as seborrhea dermatitis. Others had claimed that they have excessive sweat even if they are not doing anything that would produce sweat. Other had even claimed that they urinate more often. These are non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Early Satiety and Stomach Pains: Parkinson’s disease patients also claimed that they also experienced stomach pain long before when they were diagnosed with such disease. They would also feel immediate satisfaction or fullness when they eat. Scientists have not yet found out that association of this symptom with Parkinson’s disease; however, further researches have been conducted to understand these non-motor symptoms.
Treatment of Parkinson’s disease
For many years, doctors, scientists, and researchers have been in constant search for the cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, up to this time, there is no known cure for this neurological disorder. Patients would just sort to drug medications and treatments for this disease. Since Parkinson’s disease is associated with the deficiency of dopamine, doctors would prescribe their patients to take levodopa or carbidopa, or the combination of the two. These two resembles the function of dopamine. However, these medications can cause undesirable side effects and may lose effectiveness in the long run.
Another approved medication of Parkinson’s disease is the dopamine agonists. These include rotigotine, pramipexole (Mirapex, generic), and ropinirole (Requip, generic). Due to various involuntary movements of several parts of the body, Parkinson’s disease patients are also encouraged to undergo physical therapy. This is done to lessen the involuntary movements of the body. For advanced Parkinson’s disease, patients are advised to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery. Asian doctors also recommend Tai Chi. This is a Chinese martial art that involves slow flowing movements of the hands and legs. This may help the patients improve their balance and strength.