Parkinson’s disease is a disruption in movement. It affects the nervous system, and over time, symptoms get worse.
Cerebral palsy, ataxia, and Tourette syndrome are other motor disorders. We come in when a shift in the nervous system affects the ability of a person to move or remain still.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that about 50,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year in the United States, and around half a million people are living with the disorder.
Read on for more detail on this disorder, the early signs and what triggers it.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease gradually evolve. They often begin with a slight tremor in one hand and a feeling of body stiffness.
Many signs grow over time, and some individuals may suffer dementia.
Most of the signs are attributed to a decrease in brain dopamine levels.
One research, based in France, found in 2015 that men are 50 percent more likely than women overall to develop Parkinson’s disease, but the risk to women appears to be growing with age.
Symptoms occur in most people at or over age 60. They appear earlier in 5–10 percent of cases, however. When Parkinson’s disease progresses before age 50 this is called Parkinson’s disease of “early onset.”
Here are some early signs of Parkinson’s disease:
- Movement: There may be a tremor in the hands.
- Coordination: A reduced sense of coordination and balance can cause people to drop items they are holding. They may be more likely to fall.
- Gait: The person’s posture may change, so that they lean forward slightly, as if they were hurrying. They may also develop a shuffling gait.
- Facial expression: This can become fixed, due to changes in the nerves that control facial muscles.
- Voice: There may be a tremor in the voice, or the person may speak more softly than before.
- Handwriting: This may become more cramped and smaller.
- Sense of smell: A loss of sense of smell can be an early sign.
- Sleep problems: These are a feature of Parkinson’s, and they may be an early sign. Restless legs may contribute to this.
Other common symptoms include:
- mood changes, including depression
- difficulty chewing and swallowing
- problems with urination
- skin problems
- sleep problems
REM sleep disorder: Another neurological condition, REM sleep disorder, is described by authors of a 2015 study as a “strong predictor” of Parkinson’s disease and some other neurological conditions.
The importance of recognizing early symptoms
A lot of people believe Parkinson’s early symptoms are natural symptoms of aging. They can not seek support, for that reason.
However, medication is more likely to be successful if a person takes it early on in Parkinson’s disease development. For this reason, early diagnosis is critical where possible.
If treatment doesn’t start until the patient has consistent signs, it won’t be as successful.
In addition, related symptoms may occur in a variety of other conditions.
- drug-induced Parkinsonism
- head trauma
- Lewy body dementia
- corticobasal degeneration
- multiple system atrophy
- progressive supranuclear palsy
It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in the early stages due to similarity with other conditions.
Symptoms of movement can begin on one side of the body and progressively affect both sides.
Causes and risk factors
Scientists are unsure about what causes Parkinson’s illness. When nerve cells die in the brain, it does happen.
Low dopamine levels: Researchers have linked low or rising dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter, to Parkinson’s disease. This occurs when dopamine-producing cells die inside the brain.
Dopamine plays a role in transmitting signals that regulate movement and coordination to the part of the brain. Low levels of dopamine can make it more difficult for people to regulate their movements.
As dopamine levels are decreasing in a person with Parkinson’s disease, their symptoms are slowly becoming worse.
Low norepinephrine levels: Another neurotransmitter, Norepinephrine, is important for regulating many automatic body functions, such as blood circulation.
The nerve endings which this neurotransmitter produces die in Parkinson’s disease. This may explain why people with Parkinson’s disease not only experience mobility issues but also fatigue, constipation, and orthostatic hypotension when the blood pressure changes when they stand up, contributing to lightheadedness.
Lewy bodies: A person with Parkinson’s disease can have protein clumps known as the Lewy bodies in their brain. Lewy body dementia is another disorder as it has similarities to Parkinson’s disease.
Genetic factors: Parkinson’s disease often tends to occur in families, but is not necessarily inherited. Researchers are seeking to establish particular genetic factors that may contribute to Parkinson’s disease, but it seems that blame rests with not one but a variety of factors.
Of this reason they believe that the disorder could be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
For this reason, they suspect that a combination for genetic and environmental factors may lead to the condition.
Possible environmental factors could include exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, solvents, metals, and other pollutants.
Autoimmune factors: In 2017, JAMA announced that scientists had found signs of a potential genetic link between Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers studying health records in Taiwan in 2018 found that people with autoimmune rheumatic disease (ARD) also had a 1.37-higher risk of Parkinson’s disease than people without ARD.
Parkinson’s disease can not be avoided but research has shown that certain lifetime habits can help reduce the risk.
Turmeric: This spice contains the antioxidant element Curcumin. This may help avoid clumping of a protein that is involved in Parkinson’s disease, at least one lab study has been identified.
Flavonoids: According to study, eating another form of antioxidant-flavonoids-may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. There are flavonoids present in berries, bananas, some potatoes, tea and red grapes.
Avoiding reheated cooking oils: Scientists have linked toxic chemicals, known as aldehydes, with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders, and certain cancers.
Heating certain oils — like sunflower oil — to a certain temperature will cause aldehydes to occur in those oils, and then use them again.
Toxin avoidance: Herbicide use, pesticides, and other toxins that increase the risk of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. People should take care by, for example, using protective clothing while using such types of items.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes physiological changes in the body for a lifetime. These adjustments will make a person’s everyday life work harder. Nevertheless, medications and other forms of treatment are available to treat Parkinson’s disease and reduce the symptoms.
Current treatment may reduce symptoms, but scientists are hoping that one day gene therapy or stem cell therapy may be able to do more than this and regain function that the individual has lost.