Parkinson’s Disorder

What is Parkinson’s Disorder (PD)?

Parkinson’s disorder is a brain condition that mainly affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra. When this area dies, the neurons die as well and they stop producing dopamine. Dopamine is in charge of controlling body movement. This condition is progressive, which means it can become worse over time. The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown and there does not seem to be a specific reason why this area dies.   

What are signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disorder?

  • Loss of facial expression also known as masked facies
  • Tremors in hands, arms, legs and/or head
  • Stiffness of limbs and trunk
  • Impaired balance and coordination 
  • Soft speak
  • Handwriting looks cramped 
  • Parkinsonian gait which is a tendency to lean forward

What are the stages of Parkinson’s Disorder

  • Stage one: consists of mild symptoms such as gait changes and lack of facial expression. These symptoms tend to not interfere with daily activities and occur mostly on only one side of the body. 
  • Stage two: walking difficulties might be noticeable and symptoms increase in severity which now affects both sides of the body. 
  • Stage three: there is no loss of balance and slowness of movement. Patients fall more easily and it becomes very hard for patients to dress and eat
  • Stage four: due to severe symptoms, patients might require assistance while walking and can’t live on their own.
  • Stage five: the severity of the symptoms doesn’t allow the patient to walk or stand. Hallucinations and delusions may be present 

For more information about the stages of Parkinson’s watch this video

How is Parkinson’s Disorder diagnosed?

Diagnosis is mostly done based on medical history and neurological examination but recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an imaging scan called the DaTscan. While doing this test, a small amount of radioactive drug is injected and a single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) machine is used. This allows the visualization of the radioactive drug binding to the dopamine transmitters in the brain. This test does not diagnose Parkinson’s but it can help your medical provider rule out other conditions that can cause the same type of symptoms 

How is Parkinson’s Disorder treated?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s but certain medications can help to manage the symptoms of this condition. These medications can increase the level of dopamine. The main treatment for Parkinson’s is a drug named Levodopa combined with another drug called Carbidopa which helps prevent and/or reduce the side effects of Levodopa, such as nausea, vomiting, and restlessness. You can also see other medications as well as other treatment options here.

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