The disease was first studied by an English physician James Parkinson hence the condition is named after him.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

The disease was first studied by an English physician James Parkinson hence the condition is named after him. Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition in which the cells in the nervous system slowly degenerate. The nervous system is responsible for sending messages to the other parts of the body to ‘act’. In Parkinson’s, this ability is affected. The degeneration is gradual and results in tremors, shaking and mild paralysis, problem in speaking, posture and gait are affected.

Parkinson’s disease affects men more than women and is more common in the elderly above the age of 50.

What happens in Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is the result in the reduction or death of the dopamine cells found in the centre or mid brain. The mid brain is the communication house of the body and the dopamine cells here help in the effective functioning and any difference in their count especially a reduction, leads to this disease. Tremors, mild paralysis, speech problems, rigidity and uneasy gait are the signs. It is not a life threatening disease but the symptoms may get progressively worse.

What causes Parkinson’s?

The reduction in the number of Dopamine cells in the mid brain is responsible for this condition. The dopamine cells work as neurotransmitters which help transmit messages from the brain to the body.

The exact causes are unknown but the reasons are: Genetic, long term exposure to insecticides and pesticides and certain food habits.

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s?

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Tremors and shaking

  • Rigidity of muscles [facial muscles also]

  • Speech problems

  • Uneasy gait and loss of balance

  • Stooping forward

Other signs may show difficulty in: writing, in eating, performing daily activities, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, bladder problems.

What are the risk fact factors?

Risk factors hasten the onset of this disease and an early diagnosis and treatment may delay it. The risk factors for Parkinson’s are:

  • Age: The older you get, greater the risk

  • Genetics: If your brother, sister, father or mother has it, your chances increase

  • Gender: Being male increases the risk

  • Exposure to Toxins: People who have been exposed over a long term to pesticides and herbicides are at risk

  • Certain medications: Use of medicines for schizophrenia and paranoia may lead to formation of symptoms like Parkinson’s

How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?

The signs are a clue to the condition of Parkinson’s, but sometimes there are similar conditions like alzheimer’s and dementia which make diagnosis difficult. The general practitioner may find it difficult, so a visit to the Neurologist is a must.

The Neurologist may see for the main symptoms of tremors and shaking.

Various tests like: Blood tests, MRI, CT Scan, family history, medical history for depression and any prior injuries to the brain.

Is Parkinson’s disease curable?

Parkinson’s disease is not curable. In fact it leads to progressive worsening of symptoms due to gradual degeneration. The elderly are more susceptible to this condition, and most of the time the symptoms are neglected as being part of ageing process.

The condition cannot be cured, only the symptoms can be managed by a combination of medications and therapies and coping and support.

This is not an infectious or contagious disease so support and care should be unrestricted.

Are there other complications with this condition?

This condition affects the mobility and movements and the posture, thus affecting the self esteem and confidence of the person. The patient may suffer from depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, sleeplessness at nights, daytime sleeping etc. Some medications may cause twitching, hallucinations, obsessive compulsive behaviour.

How does one cope with Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological [brain] condition which affects the movements of the body. Treatment may focus on managing the symptoms to enable the patient lead a healthy lifestyle with reduced discomfort.

Caregivers play an important role in helping the patient and the physical and mental health of caregivers is equally important.

Becoming a part of support group and sharing experiences helps reduce the stress. Gadgets help in performing daily activities.

Nutrition, diet and exercise help in managing this condition very well.

Muhammad Ali the world famous boxer whom the world loves was diagnosed this condition. He is a role model for young boxing aspirants and he never let any obstacles come in his way and did not believe he could be defeated.

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