What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

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Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that is more common in men than women. It is a slowly progressive disease that is also known as shaking palsy in medical literature. Parkinson’s disease typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 70, but it can also occur in people between the ages of 20 and 40. It is found in about 1% of people over the age of 65. The disease was first described by James Parkinson in 1817. Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself with various symptoms, including tremor.

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s disease, a slowly progressive brain disease, is characterized by cell loss in the brain, also known as neurodegeneration. One of the most basic causes of Parkinson’s disease is considered to be the decrease in the amount of dopamine, a substance that provides communication between brain cells, in the substantia nigra region of the brain by 60-80%. This causes tremors in patients. The disease usually starts on one side of the body and spreads to other parts of the body over time. People with a family history of Parkinson’s disease are at an increased risk of developing the disease.

What Causes Parkinson's Disease?

The main cause of Parkinson’s disease is a decrease in the amount of dopamine in the brain. Of course, this is not the only cause.

We can list other conditions that can cause Parkinson’s disease as follows:

  • Advancing age,
  • Exposure to pesticides,
  • A history of Parkinson’s disease in the mother, father or sibling,
  • Head injuries
  • Being in rural life,
  • Using farm or well water,
  • High intake of iron and manganese,
  • Obesity
  • Animal fats,
  • Physical or emotional stress

Eliminating these causes will also help to reduce the risk of disease.

What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinson's Disease?

Disruptions in the movement system are the most basic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Some different symptoms develop as the stage of the disease progresses. Regardless of the stages, the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are as follows: Decrease in facial expressions, monotonisation and deterioration in speech, slowing of movements, tremor, forward tilt of the trunk.

The slow progression of the disease can often cause misdiagnosis. As a matter of fact, shoulder, neck or arm pains and depression that occur during the disease do not suggest the suspicion of parkinsonism in the first place. Nevertheless, the most basic symptom of Parkinson’s is a tremor in any of the hands during rest. This tremor may occasionally occur in the tongue, chin or feet. At the same time, there is no arm swing during walking.

It is possible to list other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that stand out and can be called basic symptoms as follows:

  • Tremor, also called resting tremor,
  • Slowness of movement called bradykinesia,
  • Muscle stiffening called rigidity,
  • Disturbances in walking,
  • Locking or falling during walking,
  • A disturbance of balance called postural instability,
  • Shrinking of handwriting, so-called micrography.

Symptoms first appear only on one side of the body and may later appear on the other half of the body. The severity of these symptoms varies from patient to patient and according to the stage of the disease. In addition to the above-mentioned movement-related symptoms, some patients may also experience constipation, decreased blood pressure, sleep disturbances, loss of sense of smell, restless leg syndrome and depression.

Stages Of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is evaluated in 5 stages, with stage 1 being the mildest and stage 5 being the most severe. The details of these stages are as follows:

Stage 1: Symptoms are only felt on one side of the body. Tremor is minimal. The patient’s facial expressions, posture, or gait abnormalities are only noticed by the patient’s family or close friends.

Stage 2: Symptoms begin to appear on both sides of the body. There are disturbances in gait and posture.

Stage 3: There is a noticeable slowing of the body’s movements. The patient’s balance is generally impaired and falls are seen. Functional disorders have also begun to show themselves.

Stage 4: All symptoms have become much more severe. The patient begins to have difficulty walking. Movements are extremely slow and rigid. Although tremor may decrease, it is unlikely that patients will be able to live on their own.

Stage 5: The patient is in a state of constant need for care and is dependent on a bed or wheelchair.

Early diagnosis of the disease can make the treatment process easier. For this reason, an urgent doctor’s check-up is required at the slightest symptom.

Is It Possible To Prevent Parkinson's Disease?

Some conditions can be risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. Eliminating these conditions can also reduce the risk of developing the disease. These conditions can be listed as follows:

  • Excessive smoking
  • Excessive coffee and caffeine consumption
  • Use of antihypertensive drugs
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

It is especially important for people with a family history of Parkinson’s disease to avoid the above-mentioned conditions.

Diagnosis And Treatment In Parkinson's Disease

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made by neurologists. The patient’s history and physical examination are the first methods used to make a diagnosis. Imaging techniques or laboratory tests are not sufficient for a definitive diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The diagnosis can be made by neurological examination.

Considering the diseases that occur due to cell loss, Parkinson’s disease can be defined as the disease that responds best to treatment. With early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, it is possible to eliminate the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient. The treatment method to be developed by the doctor is decided according to the patient’s condition and the stage of the disease.

Accordingly; the methods that can be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease can be listed as follows:

  • Dopamine-producing cells decrease in Parkinson’s disease, leading to a decrease in dopaminergic nerve signals. Medication therapy is effective in balancing this decrease.
  • A technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS) can also be used to treat Parkinson’s disease. DBS involves implanting electrodes in the brain’s affected areas and batteries in the abdomen or chest wall. This can help to improve the disease’s typical symptoms.
  • In addition to medication therapy, physical exercises can be performed to improve symptoms such as muscle stiffness and slowness of movement.
  • Physical exercises can help people feel more comfortable and well, gain confidence in their mobility, and improve cognitive function and mobility.

Surgical methods used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease do not always completely eliminate the disease. The majority of patients treated with surgical methods continue to use medication after surgery.

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