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Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month
Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month
What is Parkinsonís disease?
Parkinsonís disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As Parkinsonís progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.
What are the symptoms of Parkinsonís?
The four key motor symptoms of Parkinsonís disease are tremor of the hands, arms, legs or jaw; muscle rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement (bradykinesia); and postural instability (impaired balance and coordination). Other common symptoms may include pain; dementia or confusion; fatigue; sleep disturbances; depression; constipation; cognitive changes; fear or anxiety; and urinary problems. All of these symptoms can vary from person to person.
What causes Parkinsonís?
As is the case with many neurological disorders, the cause of Parkinsonís disease is not known. However, scientists and researchers are working diligently to uncover the possible cause(s), including genetic and environmental factors, of Parkinsonís disease.
Is Parkinsonís inherited?
Although the vast majority of Parkinsonís cases are not directly inherited, researchers have discovered several genes that can cause the disease in a small number of families. Research on these rare genetic forms is contributing greatly to advancing the understanding of all forms of Parkinson's. In large population studies, researchers have found that people with an affected first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, have a four to nine percent higher chance of developing PD, as compared to the general population. This means that if a personís parent has PD, his or her chances of developing the disease are slightly higher than the risk among the general population.
How is Parkinsonís diagnosed?
One of the most important things to remember about diagnosing PD is that there must be two of the four main symptoms present over a period of time for a neurologist to consider a PD diagnosis. Four Main Motor Symptoms of PD:
* Shaking or tremor
* Slowness of movement, called bradykinesia
* Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk
* Trouble with balance and possible falls, also called postural instability
This may come as a surprise to you, but there is no PD test to confirm whether or not a person has PD. PD is a clinical diagnosis and most of the time, the neurologist may order brain scans and blood tests and perform other examinations to rule out any other medical conditions that may have symptoms similar to PD.
How is Parkinsonís Treated?
Currently, there is no cure for Parkinsonís disease. Instead, therapy is directed at treating the symptoms that are most bothersome to an individual with Parkinsonís disease. For this reason, there is no standard or ďbestĒ treatment for Parkinsonís disease that applies to every patient. Data is currently being gathered to develop an individualized best approach to patient care. Treatment approaches include medication and surgical therapy. Other treatment approaches include general lifestyle modifications (rest and exercise), physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Recent studies have implicated that a treatment is better than no treatment. In other words, medications and therapies may modify the progression of Parkinsonís disease.
To learn more about Parkinson's disease and the programs and services available to you locally, please visit Parkinsonís Disease Foundation (www.pdf.org) and National Parkinson Foundation (www.parkinson.org) websites.
Sources: Parkinsonís Disease Foundation and National Parkinson Foundation
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