Parkinsons Disease1

What is Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease or PD is a common and progressive brain disorder that results from degeneration of nerve cells in the portion of the midbrain that controls body movements. Occurring mostly in older adults that are over sixty years of age, the disease is characterized by gradual, progressive muscle rigidity, tremors and clumsiness. When Parkinson’s disease occurs, degenerative changes are found in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra, which produces dopamine, a chemical substance that enables people to move normally and smoothly. Parkinson\'s disease is characterized by a severe shortage of dopamine. It is this deficiency that causes the symptoms of the disease. Parkinson\'s disease was first formally described in "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy," published in 1817 by a London physician named James Parkinson, but it has probably existed for many thousands of years. Its symptoms and potential therapies were mentioned in the Ayurveda, the system of medicine practiced in India as early as 5000 BC, and in the first Chinese medical text, Nei Jing, which appeared 2500 years ago.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
There are several things to look out for as far as determining if one has Parkinson’s disease. Usually the first symptom is a tremor of a limb (trembling or shaking) especially when the body is at rest, not moving. The tremor usually begins at one side of the body, more frequently in one hand. Other common symptoms include a general muscle stiffness and slow movement, rigid limbs, an awkward or shuffling walk, and a stooped posture. People that are affected with Parkinson’s disease often show reduced facial expression or a complete loss of it and their voices change. It becomes soft. Their intellectual ability doesn’t change until the advanced stages of the disease, when it slowly deteriorates.

Causes of Parkinson’s disease
The actual cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known. Although a defective gene was recently found in a few families with extraordinarily high incidences of PD, most researchers believe that in the vast majority of cases, genetic factors alone are not responsible for causing the disease. Instead, it is suspected that Parkinson\'s usually results from the combination of a genetic predisposition and an as yet unidentified environmental trigger. There are many known theories about the cause of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have reported families with apparently inherited Parkinson’s disease for more than a century. There have been many links as to the origin of this disease. For example, severe Parkinson’s-like symptoms were described in people who took an illegal drug contaminated with MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine). It has also been found in people who suffered a particularly severe from of influenza in the early 1900s. This suggests that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by environmental factors and just not genetics. This conclusion was as a result of the study on the genetic patterns of twin males who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease before age 50. The results from the study led researchers to conclude that since genetics appeared to play a role in the development of the disease in young twin males, then the root of the disease may be environmental for the majority of patients who are often diagnosed after the age of 50

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease
A Neurologist who can evaluate the symptoms and their severity usually diagnoses Parkinson’s disease. There is no particular test that can clearly identify the disease. Sometimes, people who are suspected with the disease are given an anti-Parkinson drug to see if they respond. Brain scans and autopsies are one way that doctors can diagnose someone with this disease. One’s medical history could also prove to be a key point.

Available Treatments for Parkinson’s disease
Till date, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. After the initial diagnosis, many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years. If at any time, symptoms should grow severe, levodopa could be prescribed by doctors. L-dopa as it is commonly called, helps replace the brain’s dopamine. It has been reported that brain surgery in some very severe cases have helped. Since there is no cure, Neurologists recommend that the person with this disease remain very active but also have a lot of rest and they also suggest physical therapy.

People affected with Parkinson’s disease
It is believed that