PARKINSONS DISEASE - Watsons Health

PARKINSONS DISEASE

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, wherein deterioration of motor function develops gradually due to the loss of chemicals in the brain.  It is characterized by tremors, stiffness and slowing of movement.

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Age. Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
  • Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease.
  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
  • Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may put you at a slightly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs may vary from person to person. Early signs may be mild and may go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may notice a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as a pill-rolling tremor. One characteristic of Parkinson’s disease is a tremor of your hand when it is relaxed (at rest).
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may reduce your ability to move and slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk, or you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Also, you may drag your feet as you try to walk, making it difficult to move.
  • Rigid muscles. Stiffness of the limbs and trunk, which may increase during movement. Rigidity may produce muscle aches and pain. Loss of fine hand movements can lead to cramped handwriting (micrographia) and may make eating difficult.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Impaired or lost reflexes can make it difficult to adjust posture to maintain balance. Postural instability may lead to falls.
  • Loss of automatic movements. In Parkinson’s disease, you may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. You may have speech problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.
  • Parkinsonian gait. Individuals with more progressive Parkinson’s disease develop a distinctive shuffling walk with a stooped position and a diminished or absent arm swing. It may become difficult to start walking and to make turns. Individuals may freeze in mid-stride and appear to fall forward while walking.

DIAGNOSIS

No specific test exists to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your medical history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination.

Furthermore, making the diagnosis is even more difficult since there are currently no blood or lab tests available to diagnose the disease. Some tests, such as a CT Scan (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), may be used to rule out other disorders that cause similar symptoms.

Given these circumstances, a doctor may need to observe the patient over time to recognize signs of tremor and rigidity, and pair them with other characteristic symptoms. The treatment decisions made early in the illness can have profound implications on the long-term success of treatment.

Because the diagnosis is based on the doctor’s exam of the patient, it is very important that the doctor be experienced in evaluating and diagnosing patients with Parkinson’s disease.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Medicines are the most common treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The goal is to correct the shortage of the brain chemical dopamine, which causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Medicines often improve symptoms, but they also may cause side effects. It may take some time to find the best combination of medicines for you.

Medications your doctor may prescribe include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa. Levodopa, the most effective Parkinson’s disease medication, is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine.
Levodopa is combined with carbidopa (Rytary, Sinemet), which protects levodopa from premature conversion to dopamine outside your brain, which prevents or lessens side effects such as nausea.
Side effects may include nausea or lightheadedness (orthostatic hypotension).
  • Carbidopa-levodopa infusion. Duopa is a medication that is made up of carbidopa and levodopa. However, it’s administered through a feeding tube that delivers the medication in a gel form directly to the small intestine.
Duopa is for patients with more advanced Parkinson’s who still respond to carbidopa-levodopa, but who have a lot of fluctuations in their response.
  • Dopamine agonists. Unlike levodopa, dopamine agonists don’t change into dopamine. Instead, they mimic dopamine effects in your brain.
They aren’t as effective as levodopa in treating your symptoms. However, they last longer and may be used with levodopa to smooth the sometimes off-and-on effect of levodopa.
Dopamine agonists include pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip) and rotigotine (given as a patch, Neupro). A short-acting injectable dopamine agonist, apomorphine (Apokyn), is used for quick relief.
  • MAO-B inhibitors. These medications include selegiline (Eldepryl, Zelapar) and rasagiline (Azilect). They help prevent the breakdown of brain dopamine by inhibiting the brain enzyme monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B). This enzyme metabolizes brain dopamine.
  • Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors. Entacapone (Comtan) is the primary medication from this class. This medication mildly prolongs the effect of levodopa therapy by blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine.
  • Anticholinergics. These medications were used for many years to help control the tremor associated with Parkinson’s disease. Several anticholinergic medications are available, including benztropine (Cogentin) or trihexyphenidyl.
However, their modest benefits are often offset by side effects such as impaired memory, confusion, hallucinations, constipation, dry mouth and impaired urination.
  • Amantadine. Doctors may prescribe amantadine alone to provide short-term relief of symptoms of mild, early-stage Parkinson’s disease. It may also be given with carbidopa-levodopa therapy during the later stages of Parkinson’s disease to control involuntary movements (dyskinesias) induced by carbidopa-levodopa.
Side effects may include a purple mottling of the skin, ankle swelling or hallucinations.

Surgical procedures

  • Deep brain stimulation. In deep brain stimulation (DBS), surgeons implant electrodes into a specific part of your brain. The electrodes are connected to a generator implanted in your chest near your collarbone that sends electrical pulses to your brain and may reduce your Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

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