What is Parkinson’s Disorder?


Parkinson’s disorder is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement. However, this neurodegenerative disorder is rare in young adults, and normally appears in adults aged 60 or older. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disorder often occur gradually, and different symptoms may appear in different people. Regardless, these symptoms progressively worsen overtime. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disorder may include tremors that usually occur or begin in the limb area or fingers and hands, slowed movement, also called bradykinesia, rigid or stiff muscles, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic or unconscious movements, changes in speech, and difficulty writing. Early signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disorder may go unnoticed since they can be mild to detect, and symptoms usually begin on one side of the body and continue to worsen on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides (Parkinson’s disease – Symptoms and causes). 

Typically, Parkinson’s disorder occurs in stages ranging from one to five. Stage one consists of mild symptoms that do not interfere with daily activities as much, and these include tremors or other movement symptoms that typically occur on one side of the body. Additionally, stage one consists of changes in posture, facial expressions, and walking that are often mild. Stage two consists of worsened tremors, rigidity in muscles, and movement symptoms that affect both sides of the body. During stage two, daily tasks start to become more difficult to perform and take longer to do so. Stage three consists of a loss of balance, bradykinesia, and an increase in falls. Throughout stage three, the individual can still live independently and perform tasks independently. However, symptoms tend to make daily tasks such as dressing and eating a bit more difficult. Stage four consists of limiting and severe symptoms to an extent where the individual may require a walker, and the individual needs assistance with daily activities of living, so the individual cannot live independently. Lastly, stage five consists of stiffness in the legs that make it impossible to stand or walk, hallucinations or delusions, and the individual may be bedridden or require a wheelchair. Stage five normally requires consistent nursing care (Treatment).

Parkinson’s disorder is caused by the gradual breakdown or death of neurons, which are known to produce a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine. This decrease in dopamine levels results in abnormal brain activity that leads to impaired movement as well as the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disorder (Parkinson’s disease – Symptoms and causes). The specific neurons that are lost are called dopaminergic neurons (Tysnes and Storstein, 2017). Although the exact cause of this loss in neurons is unknown, there are many factors that seem to play a role in their loss, including genetic mutations, exposure to environmental toxins, the presence of lewy bodies, and alpha-synuclein found in lewy bodies (Parkinson’s disease – Symptoms and causes). Researchers believe that clumps called lewy bodies, especially those filled with the protein alpha synuclein, are markers of Parksinson’s disorder (Tysnes and Storstein, 2017)

The cure for Parkinson’s disorder is unfortunately unknown. Additionally, treatment for Parkinson’s varies based on the symptoms the individual experiences. For instance, some people may benefit and alleviate some symptoms through lifestyle changes such as exercise and more rest, whereas others may be recommended medication or surgical therapy (Treatment). Luckily, advances in Parkinson’s research are being made and may improve future course of treatments. 

 

References

Tysnes, O. and Storstein, A., 2017. Epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neural Transmission, 124(8), pp.901-905.

Mayo Clinic. n.d. Parkinson’s disease – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

Parkinson’s Foundation. n.d. Treatment. [online] Available at: <https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Treatment> [Accessed 26 April 2021].

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