Parkinson's Disease

What to expect from Parkinson’s , and tips for dealing with the disease’s progression.

An estimated four million individuals worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder affecting movement and control, as well as speech. The disease is most common in the elderly. Parkinson’s is not a fatal illness, and the nature and severity of symptoms varies with the individual.

Although the cause of the disease is not known, it has been associated with a deficiency of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter helping the initiation, planning, and execution of movement. It’s worth staying up-to-date on the research related to Parkinson’s Disease and dopamine, as well as various treatment methods. Doing this may be able to help you provide better care in the future.

Recognize that no two individuals suffering from Parkinson’s exhibit the exact same symptoms. Symptoms, however, have been commonly grouped into three categories: tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia.

  • An occurrence of tremors is usually the initial symptom. Seventy-five percent of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease experience this symptom, often in the arms and hands or on one side of the body. Tremors generally decrease with voluntary movement.
  • Rigidity tends to result from sustained muscle contractions and is often painful.
  • Finally, bradykinesia—slowness or loss of movement—may account for stooped posture, drooling, and shuffling gait.

More specific symptoms that can be experienced by individuals with Parkinson’s include:

  • A shuffling or dragging of the foot on the affected side of the body
  • Extremely cramped handwriting
  • Feelings of being physically “stuck” in one place
  • Feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Generalized slowness of movements
  • Inability to swing the arm on the affected side of the body
  • Increase in dandruff or oily skin
  • Infrequent blinking or swallowing
  • A decrease in facial expression or attitude
  • Limb stiffness
  • Problems with gait or balance
  • Tremors on one side of the body
  • Softer voice

These symptoms often cause the loss of communication skills. These losses can be very traumatic, affecting as they do most every aspect of the individual’s life. The assumptions made by others can be particularly frustrating or painful to those with Parkinson’s, because, while the body may be in revolt, the mind is clear. Do what you can to ensure your loved one is treated appropriately.

This may not be easy, and may grow more difficult as the disease progresses. Feelings of depression or social isolation are normal in such situations. Anticipate these times and accept them as part of a process. Seek out others who provide care to individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, and share your experiences with them.

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