Introduction to Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that affects movement and stems from a dopamine deficiency in the brain. What does all that mean? Let’s break it down. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a chemical in the brain that sends signals from one neuron or nerve cell to another. Dopamine plays a large role in accounting for a person’s ability to move. That is why Parkinson’s is caused by a deficiency of dopamine and is a movement disorder. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, approximately 9 million people have the disorder worldwide. Only 4% of people diagnosed with PD (Parkinson’s Disease) are diagnosed before they turn 50, and men are more likely to have Parkinson’s than women(1).
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease. This means that the symptoms during early stages may be very difficult to notice. As the disease becomes more apparent, symptoms become more obvious and can start to seriously hinder a family’s ability to go about things as usual. The most common symptom associated with Parkinson’s disease is the tremor. Most frequently, these tremors begin in the hands. A common indicator, known as pill-rolling tremor, is when your loved one rubs their index finger on their thumb repeatedly. Another common early stage symptom is called “bradykinesia”, or in more understandable terms, slowed movement. This can make something as simple and as important as walking to the restroom a daunting task. It’s common for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s to drag their feet, or not swing their arms much when walking. As the disease progresses, your loved one may encounter these things: inability to balance, muscle stiffness, and a lack of facial expression.
How To Handle Parkinson’s
There is no one-size-fits-all care plan for Parkinson’s disease. Caring for an aging loved one with Parkinson’s largely depends on their symptoms, and how you can mitigate the effect those symptoms are having on their daily lives. For example, if your mother or father is experiencing severe bradykinesia, making sure their living environment is optimized for movement is important. A flight of stairs can become as daunting as running a 3 mile race. There are also surgical options to consider in some cases. If your aging parent is capable of withstanding the rigors associated with surgery, deep brain stimulation might be an option. Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, connects electrodes in the brain to a pacemaker device in the chest. This helps deactivate parts of the brain that cause Parkinson’s disease without obstructing them altogether. Electrical impulses can be sent to specific areas of the brain to stop tremors, and mitigate some of the movement impairment. More generally, as is the case with most later life diagnoses, a healthy, social, and active lifestyle is a great start in treating the disease.
You can donate to Parkinson’s research determined to find a cure here: bit.ly/PDdonatehere. $.89 cents of every dollar goes directly to research.