What Is And Isn’t Parkinson’s Disease
I am often asked if Parkinson’s Disease is a form of Alzheimers. Parkinson’s is not Alzheimers, ALS or a brain tumor, and the prognosis for Parkinson’s, though not a perfect scenario, leaves room to live a productive life.
PD is a progressive and chronic neurological disease that often begins with mild symptoms that advance gradually over time. Symptoms can be so subtle in the early stages that they go unnoticed, leaving the disease undiagnosed for years. For patients with Parkinson’s, there is a reduction in the body chemical dopamine, which controls movement and mood so simple activities like walking, talking and writing can be impacted.
Due to the complexity of PD, diagnosis is based on a variety of factors. The best diagnosis is made by an expert doing a careful history and exam followed by tracking responses to therapy. There is no blood or laboratory test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
While Parkinson’s reaches all demographics, the majority of people with PD are age 60 or older. Men and people with a family history of the disease have an increased risk.
How Is Parkinsons Disease Diagnosed
Diagnosing Parkinsons disease is sometimes difficult, since early symptoms can mimic other disorders and there are no specific blood or other laboratory tests to diagnose the disease. Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, may be used to rule out other disorders that cause similar symptoms.
To diagnose Parkinsons disease, you will be asked about your medical history and family history of neurologic disorders as well as your current symptoms, medications and possible exposure to toxins. Your doctor will look for signs of tremor and muscle rigidity, watch you walk, check your posture and coordination and look for slowness of movement.
If you think you may have Parkinsons disease, you should probably see a neurologist, preferably a movement disorders-trained neurologist. The treatment decisions made early in the illness can affect the long-term success of the treatment.
Who Gets Parkinson’s Disease
About 1 million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease, and both men and women can get it. Symptoms usually appear when someone is older than 50 and it becomes more common as people get older.
Many people wonder if you’re more likely to get Parkinson’s disease if you have a relative who has it. Although the role that heredity plays isn’t completely understood, we do know that if a close relative like a parent, brother, or sister has Parkinson’s, there is a greater chance of developing the disease. But Parkinson’s disease is not contagious. You can’t get it by simply being around someone who has it.
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Referral To A Specialist
If your GP suspects Parkinson’s disease, you’ll be referred to a specialist.
This will usually be:
- a neurologist, a specialist in conditions affecting the brain and nervous system
- a geriatrician, a specialist in problems affecting elderly people
The specialist will most likely ask you to perform a number of physical exercises so they can assess whether you have any problems with movement.
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is likely if you have at least 2 of the 3 following symptoms:
- shaking or tremor in a part of your body that usually only occurs at rest
- slowness of movement
- muscle stiffness
If your symptoms improve after taking a medication called levodopa, it’s more likely you have Parkinson’s disease.
Special brain scans, such as a;single photon emission computed tomography scan, may also be carried out in some cases;to try to;rule out;other causes of;your symptoms.
How Is Parkinson’s Treated
Although there’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s, treatments are available to help reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible.;These include:
- supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy
- deep brain stimulation .
If you have mild symptoms of Parkinsons, your doctor might not recommend medication and instead focus on supportive therapy and lifestyle improvements such as exercise and relaxation. As your symptoms progress, you will be prescribed medication.;
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How Is Parkinson’s Disease Managed
Your doctors will tailor your treatment based on your individual circumstances. You will manage your condition best if you have the support of a team, which may include a general practitioner, neurologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, specialist nurse and dietitian.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, symptoms can be treated with a combination of the following.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells, or neurons, in an area of the brain that controls movement become impaired and/or die. Normally, these neurons produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine. When the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems of Parkinson’s. Scientists still do not know what causes cells that produce dopamine to die.
People with Parkinson’s also lose the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine, the main chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls many functions of the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The loss of norepinephrine might help explain some of the non-movement features of Parkinson’s, such as fatigue, irregular blood pressure, decreased movement of food through the digestive tract, and sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up from a sitting or lying-down position.
Many brain cells of people with Parkinson’s contain Lewy bodies, unusual clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Scientists are trying to better understand the normal and abnormal functions of alpha-synuclein and its relationship to genetic mutations that impact Parkinsons disease and Lewy body dementia.
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Stiffness And Slow Movement
Parkinsons disease mainly affects adults older than 60. You may feel stiff and a little slow to get going in the morning at this stage of your life. This is a completely normal development in many healthy people. The difference with PD is that the stiffness and slowness it causes dont go away as you get up and start your day.
Stiffness of the limbs and slow movement appear early on with PD. These symptoms are caused by the impairment of the neurons that control movement. A person with PD will notice jerkier motions and move in a more uncoordinated pattern than before. Eventually, a person may develop the characteristic shuffling gait.
Living With Parkinsons Disease
As Parkinsons develops, a person who has it may slow down and wont be able to move or talk quickly. Sometimes, speech therapy and occupational therapy are needed. This may sound silly, but someone who has Parkinsons disease may need to learn how to fall down safely.
If getting dressed is hard for a person with Parkinsons, clothing with Velcro and elastic can be easier to use than buttons and zippers. The person also might need to have railings installed around the house to prevent falls.
If you know someone who has Parkinsons disease, you can help by being a good friend.
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How Do I Know If I Have Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects mainly coordination. While it is associated with abnormally low levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate movement, researchers are not yet sure what causes the brain cells responsible for making dopamine break down.
What are the Symptoms?
Parkinsons disease has a wide array of symptoms that vary from patient to patient. They also change as the patient progresses, and not all of them affect the patients motor skills. Parkinsons disease is an insidious condition that develops slowly, so the early symptoms often go unnoticed, even by the patient.
The best-known and most common symptom is tremor. The patient will experience an involuntary shaking of a body part while they are awake and standing still or sitting. Moving often makes the tremor go away. The tremor usually affects a hand, arm or leg, but it can also involve the lips, tongue or chin. In the early stages of Parkinsons disease, the tremor usually only affects one body part on one side of the body. As the disease progresses, the tremor may remain confined to one side of the body, or it may start to affect both sides.
Other common symptoms of Parkinsons include:
How is the Disease Diagnosed?
- Acute Pain Due to Trauma
- Radiating Pain to Arms or Legs
Other Challenges Of Diagnosing Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease progresses slowly, often with non-motor symptoms appearing months or years before motor symptoms. This can make it challenging for doctors to diagnose you in the early stages, especially since the diagnostic criteria is based mostly on motor symptoms. You may have to wait until your symptoms progress for you and your doctor to confirm your diagnosis.14
Age and gender can be another issue. Since Parkinsons is associated more with older men, doctors may not think their younger or female patients have Parkinsons.5 On the other hand, since the disease is associated with aging, your symptoms may be blamed on getting older.
Remember that movement disorder specialists are extremely knowledgeable about Parkinsons disease and can help put the pieces together where other more generalized doctors may not. Never hesitate to fight for the care you deserve.
Related: Heres whats important to remember if you were just diagnosed with Parkinsons disease.;
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Early Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects movement. Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. This year, about 60,000 more will be diagnosed with Parkinsons disease.
Many people associate Parkinsons disease with tremors or shaking of their hands. While this is a common symptom, other important symptoms include stiffness of muscles and slowing of movement.
Symptoms of Parkinsons disease usually start on one side of the body. They usually remain worse on that side even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
The early signs and symptoms are different for each person. The symptoms may be mild enough to go unnoticed for months or years.
Here are early symptoms that can raise concern for Parkinsons disease:
- Smaller handwriting
- Family members may observe that one arm swings less on one side when walking.
- Soft or low voice Again, it is family members or friends who may ask one to speak louder. The speech may be more of a monotone without the usual inflections.
It is the combination of several symptoms that would raise suspicion for Parkinsons disease. A single symptom is not enough to make a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease.
It is important to talk with your health care provider if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinsons disease. This is to properly diagnose the condition and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.
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Learn The Protocol For Your State
Colorado is not a medically mandated state. Its a self-reporting state, which means its up to you to assess whether or not you are fit to drive. With that said, Dittmar says that approximately 75% of the driving assessments she does are direct referrals from doctors.
Once Dittmar has completed a driving assessment, she sends the report to the drivers doctor and it gets linked back to the drivers DMV profile. The recommendations then become connected to a license.
These recommendations must be measurable. For example, some of the restrictions that could be placed on a driver include:
- Can only drive in daylight
- Can only drive within a certain radius of their home
- Can only drive below certain speeds
In some states, the report gets sent to the medical board. Contact the DMV in your state to learn more about how its done where you live.
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What You Should Say And When You Should Say It
For many people, deciding who and when to tell about a Parkinsons diagnosis is a source of anxiety and fear. Fortunately, the decision to tell others is yours alone, especially when you are newly diagnosed. But as time passes and your symptoms become more pronouncedworsened by stress or disease progression it is important to let those you see on a regular basis know about your diagnosis and how it will affect them. Young children almost always know more than we think they do. And friends and family members, too, may observe symptoms such as gait issues and slurred speech, and arrive at their own conclusion.
Before having these conversations, however, you will want to take some time to prepare. Actively thinking about how much information you care to disclose before seeing your grandchildren for the first time since your diagnosis or before your next family reunion will help you anticipate potential questions and give you more control over these stressful situations.
Disease Or Functional Problem
For a person with ET, its not much comfort to call tremors a functional problem. When tremors are severe and incapacitating, it feels like a disease condition. However, in medical terms, a disease is an organic or pathological state with cellular changes that can usually be identified or diagnosed by physical tests. Such tests include blood and tissue analysis that may reveal distinct cellular changes or biomarkers, and various types of imaging for abnormalities . Also, many diseases lead to death if left untreated, or if there is no known cure. Thus, ET does not qualify as a diseasebut this is of little comfort if tremors become so severe that life is no longer normal.
However, ET is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as Parkinsons disease . One of the main symptoms of PD is tremors, usually starting in the fingers or hands, but which can also affect other parts of the body as the disease progresses. In addition, PD brings stiffness and rigidity, slowness of voluntary movements, facial and postural drooping, balance and gait problems, skin abnormalities, cognitive and emotional difficulties, and eventually near-total disability. Thus, a diagnosis of PD is devastating.
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Want More Practical Articles Like This
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What Are The Surgical Treatments For Parkinsons Disease
Most patients with Parkinsons disease can maintain a good quality of life with medications. However, as the disease worsens, medications may no longer be effective in some patients. In these patients, the effectiveness of medications becomes unpredictable reducing symptoms during on periods and no longer controlling symptoms during off periods, which usually occur when the medication is wearing off and just before the next dose is to be taken. Sometimes these variations can be managed with changes in medications. However, sometimes they cant. Based on the type and severity of your symptoms, the failure of adjustments in your medications, the decline in your quality of life and your overall health, your doctor may discuss some of the available surgical options.
What If You Have Parkinson’s Disease And A Stroke
Stroke is relatively common and so is Parkinson’s disease, so one person can have both. If you or your loved one has a stroke as well as Parkinson’s disease, it is normal for you to be concerned.
The conditions have different causes, but the movement problems of Parkinson’s disease combined with the effects of a stroke can make it even more difficult for you or your loved one to get around than if you only had one of the two problems.
If you have both conditions, it is more important to pay attention to things such as safeguarding your home to prevent falls and getting a walker or a cane in order to avoid falls.
Noticing The Signs Of Parkinsons Disease In A Loved One
If you were to go to a Parkinsons disease website, youd probably find a post on signs and symptoms of PD. The problem is that it can be hard to notice the signs if you are the one with Parkinsons disease. You may have grown so used to the symptoms that you no longer take them as something serious.
Ive written this post for loved ones who might have a sense that something isnt quite right with the one they love. It is a list of early signs you may notice before they do, and how you might be able to help them.
Most people notice tremors as the first symptom. However, did you know that there are other signs that someone may have Parkinsons disease? Signs that are often overlooked even by medical doctors?
On one of my earlier visits to my neurologist, I learned that one of the very first signs of PD is depression. There was no reason for me to feel down at times like I did. However, as there are many other reasons for a person to feel down or depressed, dont jump to conclusions that your loved one has PD. For a confirmed diagnosis, several signs or symptoms must be present. A diagnosis of PD has never been made purely because a person is depressed .
There is a list of symptoms a movement disorder specialist will look for in making a correct diagnosis of PD. Shaking can be caused by other things such as a head injury, resting tremors, overextending yourself physically, prescriptions you may be taking, hypoglycemia, and more.