April: Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Barbara Gruszka

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder. While there are many neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s, Parkinson’s is characterized by the development of tremors, impaired movement, and even trouble controlling emotions.[1]

Why does this occur? Current research points to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Neurotransmitters allow for the brain to send signals through neurons, known as “brain cells.” In Parkinson’s disease, the brain slowly stops producing dopamine and is unable to relay signals towards the parts of the brain that help us move. These signals typically stem from the substantia nigra, where the neurons that produce dopamine are heavily concentrated. In a Parkinson’s patient this area is inactive and dopamine is not produced.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include: tremors (shaking), bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity (stiffness), and postural instability (problems keeping balance). [2] Most importantly, these are symptoms that develop slowly and may be hard to notice at first. Soon enough, however, the signs of Parkinson’s become so prevalent in daily activities that it is recommended you seek treatment. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. Current treatment for Parkinson’s aims to restore the dopamine imbalance through prescription drugs like Levodopa, or “L-dopa”. [3] However, these medications are not for chronic usage and must be heavily controlled in order to prevent further damage to the nervous system.

When seeking medical help, the doctor will refer to your medical history and make careful observations of movement and speech.[4] There is no objective test that will diagnose Parkinson’s directly, so it is important to seek a second diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is possible!

It is important to remember that Parkinson’s is not a death sentence. While one will die with the disease, it is possible to live a normal life. Nevertheless, the symptoms that define Parkinson’s are not easy to cope with, and must be treated as a serious neurological disorder.

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons

[2] http://www.parkinsonsneurochallenge.org/sarasota-parkinsons-disease-resources/sarasota-what-is-parkinsons-disease.html

[3] http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/guide/understanding-parkinsons-disease-treatment#1

[4] https://www.michaeljfox.org/understanding-parkinsons/i-have-got-what.php

Image Source:

http://www.yaabot.com/tag/brain/

 

 

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