Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Initial symptoms can start with something such as a hand tremor, and stiffness, or slowed movement. These symptoms slowly progress over the years and can differ from person to person. Around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year and more than 10 million people worldwide are living with this condition. Parkinson’s incidents increase with age with most cases developing around age 60. While Parkinson’s is not curable it is possible to have a good quality of life with PD by understanding the condition, talking with your doctor, and following recommended therapies.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, however, scientists believe that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cause Parkinson’s. The main commonality between Parkinson’s cases is a loss of dopaminergic neurons in the brain. Genetics is the primary reason for 10-15% of Parkinson’s cases and concerns genetic mutations that increase the risk of developing PD. Additionally, studies have shown that there is a possible link to PD from environmental factors such as head injuries, exposure to metals, and exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
Parkinson’s is called a movement disorder because the most obvious symptoms typically involve tremors and slowed or stiffened movement. The largest movement-related symptoms to watch for are bradykinesia(the slowness of movement), tremors, and rigidity. Other movement symptoms to watch out for involve cramping, freezing, and drooling. There are other non-movement-related symptoms to be aware of as well. These symptoms include cognitive changes, pain, mood-related changes, lightheadedness, and vision problems. Parkinson’s symptoms vary from person to person and it is important to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.
There is no standard treatment for PD, it changes from person to person based on their symptoms and severity. Some treatment options involve medication, surgical therapy, or more exercise and rest. No medication has been able to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s however it can provide some relief from symptoms. It is important to stay on top of PD medications to avoid “off periods”. Staying on schedule with medications will help you feel better and avoid unpleasant symptoms.
If you are worried about your risk of developing Parkinson’s it is important to speak with your doctor. Parkinson’s disease is manageable: through proper therapy and medications, you can still maintain a good quality of life. The first step is learning about what to watch out for, and knowing your risks.
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