Foster A Good Relationship
Lastly, maintaining your relationship and communication with the person with Parkinsonâs can be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of caregiving. As Parkinsonâs disease progresses, the roles change and the person with Parkinsonâs may go from being an independent head of the household to a very dependent person requiring a significant level of care. However, research shows that despite high levels of strain, caregivers with good quality relationships have reduced depression and better physical health. Remember, as a caregiver your service to your loved one is beyond measure in terms of love, depth of care, and concern.
So What Do We Know So Far
Location of the substantia nigra. FrozenManCC BY-SA 4.0
The substantia nigra is an area of the mid brain located at the top of the spinal cord, which has been the focus of much work into how Parkinsons affects the brain.
There are a right and a left substantia nigra, and often one side is affected before the other. Because of this, people with Parkinsons often experience symptoms primarily on one side of their body, particularly in the early stages. Indeed, this common feature of the condition often helps to distinguish Parkinsons from other similar conditions.
When it comes to confirming a diagnosis, it is the substantia nigra where pathologists look for changes at the end of life in brain tissue that has been donated to research. And the loss of the dopamine-producing cells in this area of the brain, accompanied by the presence of clumps of alpha-synuclein protein , has been the hallmark of Parkinsons for decades.
You can read more about the alpha-synuclein protein, and how it plays a role in the spread of Parkinsons, in a previous blog post:
What Is The Prognosis And Life Expectancy For Parkinson’s Disease
The severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs vary greatly from person to peson, and it is not possible to predict how quickly the disease will progress. Parkinson’s disease itself is not a fatal disease, and the average life expectancy is similar to that of people without the disease. Secondary complications, such as pneumonia, falling-related injuries, and choking can lead to death. Many treatment options can reduce some of the symptoms and prolong the quality of life.
Recommended Reading: Does Sam Waterston Have Parkinson
Drugs And Medication Used To Treat Parkinsons Disease
A number of different drugs can be used to treat Parkinsons.
Levodopa is the most common treatment for Parkinsons. It helps to replenish dopamine.
About 75 percent of cases respond to levodopa, but not all symptoms are improved. Levodopa is generally given with carbidopa.
Carbidopa delays the breakdown of levodopa which in turn increases the availability of levodopa at the blood-brain barrier.
Dopamine agonists can imitate the action of dopamine in the brain. Theyre less effective than levodopa, but they can be useful as bridge medications when levodopa is less effective.
Drugs in this class include bromocriptine, pramipexole, and ropinirole.
Anticholinergics are used to block the parasympathetic nervous system. They can help with rigidity.
Benztropine and trihexyphenidyl are anticholinergics used to treat Parkinsons.
Amantadine can be used along with carbidopa-levodopa. Its a glutamate-blocking drug . It offers short-term relief for the involuntary movements that can be a side effect of levodopa.
Catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors prolong the effect of levodopa. Entacapone and tolcapone are examples of COMT inhibitors.
Tolcapone can cause liver damage. Its usually saved for people who do not respond to other therapies.
Ectacapone does not cause liver damage.
Stalevo is a drug that combines ectacapone and carbidopa-levodopa in one pill.
Possible Risk Reduction Factors
While age, genetics, and being a man make it more likely you’ll develop Parkinson’s disease, some factors make it less likely. It is generally believed that Asian-Americans and African-Americans seem to have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s as compared to Caucasians. Drinking coffee may lower risk, as a 30-year study of Japanese-American men found the greater amount of coffee they drank, the lower their risk of Parkinson’s disease became.
You May Like: What Are Early Warning Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease
How Is Parkinsons Diagnosed
Doctors use your medical history and physical examination to diagnose Parkinson’s disease . No blood test, brain scan or other test can be used to make a definitive diagnosis of PD.
Researchers believe that in most people, Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Certain environmental exposures, such as pesticides and head injury, are associated with an increased risk of PD. Still, most people have no clear exposure that doctors can point to as a straightforward cause. The same goes for genetics. Certain genetic mutations are linked to an increased risk of PD. But in the vast majority of people, Parkinsons is not directly related to a single genetic mutation. Learning more about the genetics of Parkinsons is one of our best chances to understand more about the disease and discover how to slow or stop its progression.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
Men are diagnosed with Parkinsons at a higher rate than women and whites more than other races. Researchers are studying these disparities to understand more about the disease and health care access and to improve inclusivity across care and research.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has made finding a test for Parkinsons disease one of our top priorities.
What Treatments Are Available
Many Parkinson’s patients enjoy an active lifestyle and a normal life expectancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and staying physically active contributes to overall health and well-being. Parkinson’s disease can be managed with self-care, medication, and surgery.
Self careExercise is as important as medication in the treatment of PD. It helps maintain flexibility and improves balance and range of motion. Patients may want to join a support group and continue enjoyable activities to improve their quality of life. Equally important is the health and well being of the family and caregivers who are also coping with PD. For additional pointers, see Coping With Parkinsons Disease.
These are some practical tips patients can use:
Medications There are several types of medications used to manage Parkinson’s. These medications may be used alone or in combination with each other, depending if your symptoms are mild or advanced.
After a time on medication, patients may notice that each dose wears off before the next dose can be taken or erratic fluctuations in dose effect . Anti-Parkinsons drugs can cause dyskinesia, which are involuntary jerking or swaying movements that typically occur at peak dosage and are caused by an overload of dopamine medication. Sometimes dyskinesia can be more troublesome than the Parkinsons symptoms.
Recommended Reading: Can Parkinson’s Run In The Family
Is Parkinsons Disease Fatal
Parkinsons disease itself doesnt cause death. However, symptoms related to Parkinsons can be fatal. For example, injuries that occur because of a fall or problems associated with dementia can be fatal.
Some people with Parkinsons experience difficulty swallowing. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia. This condition is caused when foods, or other foreign objects, are inhaled into the lungs.
How Does Parkinsons Progress
Parkinsons is a chronic and slowly progressive disorder. This means that symptoms normally appear slowly and develop gradually over time. The stage at which symptoms appear, speed at which they progress and the severity of those symptoms will vary from person to person. The most important point is that Parkinsons affects everyone differently.
There are a wide range of symptoms, but it is highly unlikely that you will experience every possible symptom. Some of the early symptoms of Parkinsons include handwriting changes, reduced sense of smell, tiredness and constipation. As Parkinsons progresses symptoms will change over time, and new symptoms will emerge. It can take many years for symptoms to progress to a point where they cause problems.
Ultimately symptoms will begin to impact on your day to day life. Many symptoms are related to physical movement, so you may find that walking becomes difficult. You may also experience non-movement symptoms such as mood changes, disrupted sleep or difficulty communicating. As these symptoms worsen it may become difficult to manage all of your daily activities.
Currently, there is no known way to slow the progression of Parkinsons. However, medications and other treatments can help to effectively manage your symptoms. To ensure the effectiveness of medications, they will need to be reviewed regularly by your specialist or doctor.
Don’t Miss: Does Alan Alda Have Parkinson’s Disease
In The Loop: Staying Ahead Of Parkinsons Disease One Ping Pong Game At A Time
Since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Steve Grinnell has worked hard to stay active, stepping up his table tennis game and, thanks to co-workers, testing his skills outside his home.
Four years ago, Steve Grinnell’s life was forever changed when doctors at Mayo Clinic in Rochester diagnosed him with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Since that time, the progressive nervous system disorder has begun to take a toll on Steve and his family, just as it does on the millions of other Americans living with the disease. “It has greatly diminished his quality of life, leaving him with tremors, physical exhaustion, impaired balance, troubled grasping things with his right hand, slow right-arm movement and problems sleeping,” the Rochester Post-Bulletin recently reported. “That’s to name just a few of his symptoms.”
Reading that, one might assume the disorder is winning. And to Steve, sometimes it feels like it is. But much of the time, he tells us he also feels like he’s staying one step ahead of the disease by staying as physically active as possible. “Parkinson’s presents such a conundrum because it wears you down physically, and yet exercise is so valuable,” Steve says. “My legs, feet and right arm are always cramping, so it takes mental effort to get moving.”
What Are The Primary Motor Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
There are four primary motor symptoms of Parkinsons disease: tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability . Observing two or more of these symptoms is the main way that physicians diagnose Parkinsons.
It is important to know that not all of these symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease to be considered. In fact, younger people may only notice one or two of these motor symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. Not everyone with Parkinsons disease has a tremor, nor is a tremor proof of Parkinsons. If you suspect Parkinsons, see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist.
Walking or Gait Difficulties
Don’t Miss: Stage 5 Parkinson Disease Life Expectancy
What Causes Parkinsons Disease
The cause of Parkinsons disease is unknown. It is believed it may be due to a combination of genetics and environmental causes.
The condition is the result of the loss of the brain chemical dopamine. In Parkinsons disease, nerve cells in the brain slowly degenerate and lose their ability to produce dopamine, though the reason this occurs is not understood. This loss of dopamine causes the symptoms of Parkinsons disease to develop gradually and become more severe over time.
In a small number of cases, the condition may be passed from family members about 10 to 15 percent of patients have at least one first-degree relative with the disease. In patients diagnosed before age 50, genetic mutations may play a role.
Unified Parkinsons Disease Rating Scale
The UPDRS contains four parts. The first part assesses intellectual function, mood, and behavior. The second one assesses activities of daily living. The third part assesses one motor function, and the fourth assesses motor complications.
Each part includes scores that altogether rate the severity of the disease. The maximum score is 199, reflecting total disability, whereas a score of zero means no disability.
Don’t Miss: How Long Do Parkinson’s Patients Live
Stage One Of Parkinsons Disease
In stage one, the earliest stage, the symptoms of PD are mild and only seen on one side of the body , and there is usually minimal or no functional impairment.
The symptoms of PD at stage one may be so mild that the person doesnt seek medical attention or the physician is unable to make a diagnosis. Symptoms at stage one may include tremor, such as intermittent tremor of one hand, rigidity, or one hand or leg may feel more clumsy than another, or one side of the face may be affected, impacting the expression.
This stage is very difficult to diagnose and a physician may wait to see if the symptoms get worse over time before making a formal diagnosis.
What Is Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a degenerative and chronic brain disorder that affects movement. It can affect other brain functions such as learning and memory.
What Are Symptoms of Parkinsons Disease?
Parkinsons disease usually starts slowly and may only cause mild symptoms early on. As the condition progresses, symptoms may begin to affect a person’s ability to do everyday activities, and as the disease becomes severe, people may need help with self-care.
The three primary symptoms of Parkinsons disease include:
- Shaking , which often start in the fingers or hands
- Slow movement
Other symptoms of Parkinsons disease may include:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of ability to think clearly
- Losing touch with reality or seeing things that aren’t there
- Sleep problems such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness
- Sudden drop in blood pressure on standing that causes dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
Don’t Miss: Lifespan Of Someone With Parkinson’s
What Is Parkinsonism Is It Different From Parkinsons
Parkinsons disease is the most common cause of parkinsonism, a category of neurological diseases that cause slowed movement.
No quick or easy diagnostic tests exist for Parkinsons disease, so a patient may receive an initial diagnosis of parkinsonism without a more specific condition being confirmed.
Classic Parkinsons disease referred to as idiopathic because it has no known cause is the most common and most treatable parkinsonism.
About 15 percent of people with parkinsonism have atypical variants, which are also known as Parkinsons plus syndromes.
Signs Of Parkinsons Disease
In 1817, Dr. James Parkinson published An Essay on the Shaking Palsy describing non-motor, as well as, motor symptoms of the illness that bears his name. Parkinsons is not just a movement disorder, explained Dr. Shprecher. Constipation, impaired sense of smell, and dream enactment can occur years before motor symptoms of Parkinsons. The latter, caused by a condition called REM sleep behavior disorder, is a very strong risk factor for both Parkinsons and dementia . This has prompted us to join a consortium of centers studying REM sleep behavior disorder.
Don’t Miss: Parkinson’s Stages Life Expectancy
What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Symptoms of Parkinsons disease and the rate of decline vary widely from person to person. The most common symptoms include:
Other symptoms include:
- Speech/vocal changes: Speech may be quick, become slurred or be soft in tone. You may hesitate before speaking. The pitch of your voice may become unchanged .
- Handwriting changes: You handwriting may become smaller and more difficult to read.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Sleeping disturbances including disrupted sleep, acting out your dreams, and restless leg syndrome.
- Pain, lack of interest , fatigue, change in weight, vision changes.
- Low blood pressure.
Living And Working With Parkinson’s Disease
Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at 29. Upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson’s research. Fox announced his retirement from “Spin City” in January 2000, effective upon the completion of his fourth season and 100th episode. Expressing pride in the show, its talented cast, writers and creative team, he explained that new priorities made this the right time to step away from the demands of a weekly series. Later that year he launched The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which the New York Times has called “the most credible voice on Parkinson’s research in the world.” Today the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s drug development, the Foundation has galvanized the search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease . Fox is widely admired for his tireless work as a patient advocate.
In 2011, he guest-starred in “Larry Versus Michael J. Fox,” the season-eight finale of Larry David’s acclaimed HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In spring 2009, he portrayed embittered, drug-addicted Dwight in Denis Leary’s hit FX Network drama “Rescue Me,” a role that earned him his fifth Emmy award. His 2006 recurring guest role in the ABC legal drama “Boston Legal” was nominated for an Emmy, and he appeared as Dr. Kevin Casey in the then-NBC series “Scrubs” in 2004.
Don’t Miss: Parkinsons Heritability
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.