The Reality Of Managing Symptoms
Dr. Benjamin Walter, of the Center for Neuro-Restoration at Cleveland Clinic, said that the average person isnt accustomed to the strict regimen of multiple medications a day thats part of everyday life for people with Parkinsons.
Most people feel burdened just taking an antibiotic, which can be difficult to remember. Now, imagine someone who has Parkinsons the minimal dosing is usually three times a day, Walter said.
He explained that the need to frequently take medication is because it usually only lasts in a persons bloodstream for 90 minutes.
Once the medication gets into the brain, its converted to dopamine and stored in dopamine neurons, which recycles and reuses that medication over and over until it is depleted. Now, its not uncommon to have patients on meds four or five times a day, he said.
Walter stressed that when discussing Parkinsons and off periods, no two people are the same.
Parkinsons is a highly variable disease. Some people will experience different motor symptoms and tremors than others.
For example, some people freeze when they walk, while others dont.
He said the off periods can be terrifying for many people and also cause a different symptom anxiety.
Walter said that its important for those taking care of a person with Parkinsons to understand how dangerous off periods can be.
He stressed the importance of making sure patients get their medications on schedule so that everything is kept in working order.
Parkinsons Is A Walk In The Park
When I was first diagnosed with Parkinsons disease, I was naïve to believe that I would only be inconvenienced by a slower pace or struggle with a slight tremor. That was based on the only person I knew who had Parkinsons Michael J. Fox. He didnt look that bad. Maybe I will get a mild case of PD kind of like the watered-down version. Ignorance is bliss, eh?
Oh man, was I wrong. I learned quickly that Parkinsons would negatively impact many facets of my life and that each day will present a challenge of some sort. Parkinsons isnt a walk in the park. It is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. But the one thing that you can count on is your Wolfpack . They will take that stroll with you through the botanical garden of life.
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Sidebar: Morris K Udall Centers Of Excellence For Parkinson’s Disease Research
The Morris K. Udall Parkinsons Disease Research Act of 1997 authorized the NIH to greatly accelerate and expand PD research efforts by launching the NINDS Udall Centers of Excellence, a network of research centers that provide a collaborative, interdisciplinary framework for PD research. Udall Center investigators, along with many other researchers funded by the NIH, have made substantial progress in understanding PD, including identifying disease-associated genes investigating the neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to PD, developing and improving PD research models, and discovering and testing potential therapeutic targets for developing novel treatment strategies.
The Udall Centers continue to conduct critical basic, translational, and clinical research on PD including: 1) identifying and characterizing candidate and disease-associated genes, 2) examining neurobiological mechanisms underlying the disease, and 3) developing and testing potential therapies. As part of the program, Udall Center investigators work with local communities of patients and caregivers to identify the challenges of living with PD and to translate scientific discoveries into patient care. The Centers also train the next generation of physicians and scientists who will advance our knowledge of and treatments for PD. See the full list of Udall Centers.
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Causes Of Parkinson’s Disease
While it is known that the symptoms of Parkinsons disease occur when many nerve cells in the substantia nigra area of the brain die, it is still unclear what causes these cells to die. A review of the latest research evidence from the Parkinson’s UK suggests that a combination of genes and the environment may trigger the disease. Genetic research has identified genes which are linked to Parkinsons and it is possible that in some cases of young-onset Parkinsons, one or more of these genes may be abnormal. Other research has looked for environmental causes, for example toxins which have caused the dopamine producing cells to die.
Please Fill Out This Form And Print Legibly
Doctors office staff, please take note of this one. I cringe whenever I see a new doctor and have to fill out reams of paperwork. My handwriting is atrocious it was the first symptom that sent me to the neurologist. And guess what? I had to fill out a lot of paperwork at his office! Although my typing on a computer is no longer as fast as it used to be, at least I have a spell-checker. E-forms are a greatly appreciated and preferred option.
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What Genes Are Linked To Parkinsons Disease
Several genes have been definitively linked to PD:
- SNCA. This gene, which makes the protein alpha-synuclein, was the first gene identified to be associated with Parkinsons. Research findings by the National Institutes of Health and other institutions prompted studies of the role of alpha-synuclein in PD, which led to the discovery that Lewy bodies seen in all cases of PD contain clumps of alpha-synuclein. This discovery revealed the link between hereditary and sporadic forms of the disease.
- LRRK2. Mutations in LRRK2 were originally identified in several English and Basque families as a cause of a late-onset PD. Subsequent studies have identified mutations of this gene in other families with PD as well as in a small percentage of people with apparently sporadic PD. LRRK2 mutations are a major cause of PD in North Africa and the Middle East.
- DJ-1. This gene normally helps regulate gene activity and protect cells from oxidative stress and can cause rare, early forms of PD.
- PRKN . The parkin gene is translated into a protein that normally helps cells break down and recycle proteins.
- PINK1. PINK1 codes for a protein active in mitochondria. Mutations in this gene appear to increase susceptibility to cellular stress. PINK1 has been linked to early forms of PD.
- GBA . Mutations in GBA cause Gaucher disease , but different changes in this gene are associated with an increased risk for Parkinsons disease as well.
Is Parkinsons Disease Fatal
It is important to understand that PD is not considered a fatal condition. As is the case with Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia, complications and a patients comorbid conditions are more life-threatening than PD itself. For example, because Parkinsons affects movement, balance and coordination, a patients risk of falling increases as the disease progresses. Falls are notoriously dangerous and a leading cause of injury and death among older adults. Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, is another complication that can develop at any point throughout ones journey with PD, and this can cause aspiration pneumoniaanother leading cause of death in patients.
Read:Dysphagia: How to Help a Loved One Eat and Drink Safely
Because a persons overall health is an important factor in how Parkinsons progresses, lifestyle choices are vitally important for prolonging both functionality and longevity. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, careful management of preexisting conditions and prevention of new medical issues is crucial.
It is important to work with a well-rounded medical team to understand PD symptoms, explore treatment options and devise a personalized care plan for improving ones overall health, maintaining a high quality of life, and preventing complications.
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Do Symptoms Get Worse
PD does not affect everyone the same way. The rate of progression and the particular symptoms differ among individuals.
PD symptoms typically begin on one side of the body. However, the disease eventually affects both sides, although symptoms are often less severe on one side than on the other.
Early symptoms of PD may be subtle and occur gradually. Affected people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. Activities may take longer to complete than in the past. Muscles stiffen and movement may be slower. The persons face may lack expression and animation . People may notice that they speak too softly or with hesitation, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. This very early period may last a long time before the more classical and obvious motor symptoms appear.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may begin to interfere with daily activities. Affected individuals may not be able to hold utensils steady or they may find that the shaking makes reading a newspaper difficult.
People with PD often develop a so-called parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward, taking small quick steps as if hurrying , and reduced swinging in one or both arms. They may have trouble initiating movement , and they may stop suddenly as they walk .
Key Programs And Resources
The Parkinsons Disease Biomarkers Programs , a major NINDS initiative, is aimed at discovering ways to identify individuals at risk for developing PD and Lewy Body Dementia and to track the progression of the disease. It funds research and collects human biological samples and clinical data to identify biomarkers that will speed the development of novel therapeutics for PD. Goals are improving clinical trials and earlier diagnosis and treatment. Projects are actively recruiting volunteers at sites across the U.S. NINDS also collaborates with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research on BioFIND, a project collecting biological samples and clinical data from healthy volunteers and those with PD. For more information about the PDBP and how you can get involved, please visit the PDBP website.
The NINDS Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinsons Disease Research program supports research centers across the country that work collaboratively to study PD disease mechanisms, the genetic contributions to PD, and potential therapeutic targets and treatment strategies.
The NINDS Intramural Research Program conducts clinical studies to better understand PD mechanisms and develop novel and improve treatments.
The NINDS Biospecimens Repositories store and distribute DNA, cells, blood samples, cerebrospinal fluid, and autopsy tissue to PD researchers around the world.
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What Happens If Parkinsons Is Left Untreated
Despite being a neurodegenerative disease with no cure, Parkinsons disease is the most treatable of them.
However, if a patient decides not to receive treatment or does not know he has the disease, things can progress in a very severe way.
Parkinsons disease that does not receive treatment worsens over the years it may damage all brain functions and early death.
Patients may experience a rapid decline in cognitive brain functions. They can experience short-term memory deficits and abnormal central processing speed.
These patients as well, may develop neuropsychiatric symptoms in the early and later stages of the disease that can get worse. Symptoms like anxiety, apathy, and depression become troublesome on these patients as well as a rapid onset of psychotic symptoms.
These patients may present as well as serious motor symptoms that may disable them to perform daily tasks. Tremor and muscle stiffness may become difficult to control without proper treatment.
Furthermore, patients will experience difficulties for eating as they cannot chew and swallow properly drooling is common on these patients. A slower digestive tract may lead to constipation and abdominal pain. These patients will have bladder problems too, which can make daily life very difficult.
Daily life for patients with untreated Parkinsons disease can become challenging. It can reach the point where these patients should remain at home.
Parkinsons Only Affects Movement
Since its discovery in 1817, Parkinsons disease was believed to only affect posture, mobility, gait, and balance. But now we realize just how PD can impact a person in a multitude of ways, including non-motor symptoms. Top offenders include: constipation, bladder control, drooling, swallowing, memory, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, cognition, and impaired executive functioning. Our Neurologists have their work cut out for them.
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What Are The Causes
The cause of Parkinson’s is largely unknown. Scientists are currently investigating the role that genetics, environmental factors, and the natural process of aging have on cell death and PD.
There are also secondary forms of PD that are caused by medications such as haloperidol , reserpine , and metoclopramide .
Identifying Risk Factors For Parkinson’s
The risk for early death increased by about 40% for every 10-year increase in age at diagnosis.
Parkinsonâs researcher Tobias Kurth, MD, agrees that identifying risk factors for early death could help clinicians better manage the disease.
Kurth is an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.
âThis is important research that adds to our understanding of the impact of specific features of Parkinsonâs disease on outcomes,â he tells WebMD.
His own study of Parkinsonâs-associated death matched Parkinsonâs patients with people without the disease who had similar non-Parkinsonâs-related illnesses.
Like the newly reported study, patients who were older when their Parkinsonâs disease was diagnosed had a greater risk for early death.
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How Is A Diagnosis Made
Because other conditions and medications mimic the symptoms of PD, getting an accurate diagnosis from a physician is important. No single test can confirm a diagnosis of PD, because the symptoms vary from person to person. A thorough history and physical exam should be enough for a diagnosis to be made. Other conditions that have Parkinsons-like symptoms include Parkinsons plus, essential tremor, progressive supranuclear palsy, multi-system atrophy, dystonia, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
You Dont Look Like You Have Parkinsons
This is my least favorite comment. Many of my symptoms are unseen. People have no idea how much I am struggling at times to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Most days, I feel shaky and weak, and I am totally exhausted.
A comment like this can minimize the hidden symptoms that are very real to the person with Parkinsons. Most people do not understand what those of us with the disease deal with daily and sometimes hourly.
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What Makes Pd Hard To Predict
Parkinsonâs comes with two main buckets of possible symptoms. One affects your ability to move and leads to motor issues like tremors and rigid muscles. The other bucket has non-motor symptoms, like pain, loss of smell, and dementia.
You may not get all the symptoms. And you canât predict how bad theyâll be, or how fast theyâll get worse. One person may have slight tremors but severe dementia. Another might have major tremors but no issues with thinking or memory. And someone else may have severe symptoms all around.
On top of that, the drugs that treat Parkinsonâs work better for some people than others. All that adds up to a disease thatâs very hard to predict.
Establishing Pd Research Priorities
The NINDS-organized Parkinsons Disease 2014: Advancing Research, Improving Lives conference brought together researchers, clinicians, patients, caregivers, and nonprofit organizations to develop 31 prioritized recommendations for research on PD. These recommendations are being implemented through investigator-initiated grants and several NINDS programs. NINDS and the NIHs National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences held the Parkinsons Disease: Understanding the Environment and Gene Connection workshop to identify priorities for advancing research on environmental contributors to PD.
Research recommendations for Lewy Body Dementia, including Parkinsons disease dementia, were updated during the NIH Alzheimers Disease-Related Dementias Summit 2019 .
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Theory Of Pd Progression: Braaks Hypothesis
The current theory is that the earliest signs of Parkinson’s are found in the enteric nervous system, the medulla and the olfactory bulb, which controls sense of smell. Under this theory, Parkinson’s only progresses to the substantia nigra and cortex over time.
This theory is increasingly borne out by evidence that non-motor symptoms, such as a loss of sense of smell , sleep disorders and constipation may precede the motor features of the disease by several years. For this reason, researchers are increasingly focused on these non-motor symptoms to detect PD as early as possible and to look for ways to stop its progression.
Page reviewed by Dr. Ryan Barmore, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinsons Foundation Center of Excellence.
*Please note that not all content is available in both languages. If you are interested in receiving Spanish communications, we recommend selecting both” to stay best informed on the Foundation’s work and the latest in PD news.
How Do People Die Of Parkinsons
The diagnosis of Parkinsons disease will change the life of a person forever. Although in the beginning, people fear from the presence of the illness, many choose to opt for a second chance to confirm the condition. It is crucial to remember the fact that diagnosing Parkinsons disease is very difficult and one may not receive accurate results. The reason is that the symptoms shown by a person are mild. An interesting factor is that many of the signs displayed by the patient occur due to other health conditions. Due to this, even the best physician or the best neurologist finds it difficult to confirm the presence of Parkinsons disease.
Rather than choosing an experienced doctor, it is preferable to head consultation with movement disorder specialist, as it will speed up the recognition of the presence of the condition of Parkinsons disease. A doctor who understands the situation and your desire for a second opinion will always assist you throughout the process.
Nonetheless, remember that none of the insurance policies covers the second opinion.
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What Does It Mean To Have Parkinsons Disease
If your diagnosis turns positive for the Parkinsons disease, then do not worry, as you still have the chance to lead a productive life by making a alterations. If Parkinsons disease is detected in the early stages, then it is possible to keep the symptoms in check by controlling the food that you eat and with the aid of medicines. However, the effectiveness of the medication ceases over a period and produces side effects. There is a surgical method, called as deep brain stimulation , to cure the condition of Parkinsons disease. But, due to the high risks involved with the procedure, many patients or for that reason, a neurologist, never prefers the same to any patient. Choosing the operation is only useful for patients when the medicines do not show any effect, and the symptoms are worsening over the period.
After from controlling the food and consuming medicines, it is likewise meaningful to add exercises to the daily routine. It will help in keeping a check on the symptoms of Parkinsons disease.