Understanding Parkinson’s Disease
Did You Know: Parkinson’s affects nearly 1 million people in the United States and more than 6 million people worldwide.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects certain brain cells that make dopamine leading them to stop working or to die creating the symptoms of PD.
The experience of living with Parkinson's is unique to each individual as symptoms vary from person to person. Neither them nor a doctor can predict which symptoms they will get or when they will arise and even how severe they will be. It is a lifelong and progressive disease, with symptoms steadily worsening over time.
The cause of Parkinson's is unknown. Researchers believe that Parkinson's is caused by a combination of factors with genetic causes at one end and environmental causes at the other. Some cases suggest that PD is influenced by environmental factors such as pesticides and air pollutants however substantial evidence is yet to conclude this cause.
Regular research is underway to understand the triggers and the flood of cellular changes that lead to Parkinson's. Knowing more about the cause could help researchers develop treatments to stop or even prevent the disease.
The more familiar symptoms are those that affect the person’s motor movements with the three most common being stiffness (rigidity) of the muscles, a resting tremor which is a rhythmic involuntary shaking of limbs, hands and feet, and the third, slowness (bradykinesia) which reduces walking speed, creates less swinging of the arms and decreased facial expressions. Other motor symptoms can be general walking problems or difficulty with balance and coordination.
Non-motor (non-movement) symptoms sometimes are called the "invisible" symptoms that can affect almost everybody and may differ in severity from person to person. Symptoms include constipation, low blood pressure, sexual problems, urinary problems such as frequent urination, excessive sweating, cognitive issues such as memory loss or poor multitasking skills and the lack of motivation or low interest in activities.
PD sufferers may also notice mood disturbances. Depression, sadness, loss of energy, decreased interest in activities and anxiety are symptoms that one might notice. Hallucinations and paranoia can also fit into this category with the addition of mild delusions surrounding a partner or family member.
Other symptoms that have been linked to PD are drooling, pain, skin changes and excessive daytime sleepiness, smell loss, speech problems, vision changes, sleep problems and weight changes.
Falls are common in people with Parkinson's disease, affecting up to 60% of those who live at home. Balance, posture and gait issues make getting around the home more difficult and in addition to these symptoms, vision changes and dizziness can raise a person’s risk of a fall significantly.
A medical professional can help to determine a person’s fall risk and may suggest assistance products such as a protective helmet to increase Independence and safety at home.
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Further Support - The Michael J Fox Foundation
Iconic actor, author and Hollywood star Michael J Fox has been battling with PD at the young age of 29. His foundation has been providing the latest research into the disease since the year 2000 in the hope of eliminating Parkison’s disease for good. Over 900 million dollars has gone into funding research programs to date along with providing further support for sufferers via his website. As a great role model for many Michael spends his time sharing his stories with the public and providing support where possible.
If you would like to read about Michael, his story and the foundation for research on PD, check out his website here.