Other Causes Of Parkinsonism
“Parkinsonism” is the umbrella term used to describe the symptoms of tremors, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement.
Parkinson’s disease is the most common type of parkinsonism, but there are also some rarer types where a specific cause can be identified.
These include parkinsonism caused by:
- medication where symptoms develop after taking certain medications, such as some types of antipsychotic medication, and usually improve once the medication is stopped
- other progressive brain conditions such as progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple systems atrophy and corticobasal degeneration
- cerebrovascular disease where a series of small strokes cause several parts of the brain to die
You can read more about parkinsonism on the Parkinson’s UK website.
Page last reviewed: 30 April 2019 Next review due: 30 April 2022
What Are The Secondary Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
The primary symptoms of the Parkinsons disease have to be obviously movement related and lose of muscles control. Since it is a neurodegenerative disease, continued damage to brain leads to secondary symptoms which vary in severity and people-
- Feelings of insecurity, anxiety and stress.
- Loss of memory, confusion and dementia.
- Erectile dysfunction or ED in men.
- Speech problems.
Standards And Training For Service Dogs
As stated above, service dogs must meet certain criteria to qualify. A service dog will need to possess the following qualifications:
- Temperament Service dogs must be well-tempered. This means that they are not quick to anger, and do not get stressed out easily. They should enjoy being touched, and not react aggressively if a patient mishandles them. While some of these behaviors can be trained, dogs will need to be inherently calm to some degree.
- Shedding Service dogs should not shed excessively. Shedding can be a major problem for people with allergies, and it creates an extra mess that owners would need to clean up. Service dogs exist to brighten peoples day, not cause more problems.
- Social Service dogs MUST be social and friendly. This is perhaps the most important requirement, as they will need to cheer people up when they need it the most. However, dogs that are overly energetic can be too rough with certain individuals , so service dogs must be social, but not overly-enthusiastic.
- Adapting Service dogs will need to adapt to various environments. Sometimes they may need to provide support while there is a lot of noise going on, and other times they may need to help patients in cramped living spaces. In any case, they will need to be comfortable, no matter the setting. A dog that is uncomfortable might become shy or even aggressive, which could cause unnecessary harm to their owners.
- Guide dog
- Psychiatric service dog
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The Role Of The Carer
As Parkinsons progresses gradually over many years, its common for people to take on a caring role gradually. When it comes to Parkinsons, each carer has a unique role. In the first stages of Parkinsons, a carer might not be needed for practical activities, however, providing emotional support is very important in these early years.
As symptoms change over time, so does the carers role. Over the years carers might help with everyday activities such as showering, dressing, eating, and toileting. Carers might also help with banking, shopping, and housework.
In the case of Parkinsons, carers also play an important role in assisting with medications. In addition to these practical activities, carers also provide ongoing encouragement and reassurance.
Living with Parkinsons as it progresses is a fight. The fight is entwined in a belief that progress is possible. For people living with Parkinsons, and their carers the fight is for recognition and validation, for independence and dignity.
How Do You Get Parkinsons Disease
A patient gets Parkinsons disease due to degeneration or destruction of the nerve cells which produce dopamine. Absence of the neurotransmitter called dopamine makes it difficult for the brain to control and coordinate muscle movements which in turn produces symptoms of tremors. It must be remembered that Parkinsons disease is a progressive neurological disorder.
There are no particularly specific tests that confirm the presence of Parkinsons disease. Once the patience comes with the symptoms, the doctor usually takes the physical history of the patient. His way of walking and level of cognition is assessed. The doctor then may ask the patient to go for certain tests like-
Blood Test- The blood test is usually done in order to rule out any other condition responsible for the symptoms of motor instability. Such conditions may include lever damage or abnormal thyroid level.
PET Scan- PET scan may help in the detection of low levels of dopamine in the brain at times. PET scans are highly specialized imaging technique, which uses substances which are radioactive in nature to create three dimensional images of the substances in the body.
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Support For People With Parkinsons
Parkinsons Victoria is available to support people living with Parkinsons from recently diagnosed through to advanced Parkinsons, along with family, carers and health professionals. You are not alone we are in this together.
For information and support from the Parkinson’s Victoria Health Team:
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms: Life Expectancy
Even though Parkinson’s disease is a serious, progressive condition, it is not considered a fatal illness. People who have Parkinson’s disease usually have the same average life expectancy as people without the disease.
But when the disease is in its advanced stages, Parkinson’s symptoms can lead to life-threatening complications, including:
- Falls that lead to fractured bones
Thinking about the progression of Parkinson’s disease can be frightening. But proper treatments can help you live a full, productive life for years to come. And researchers hope to one day find ways to halt the progression of Parkinson’s and restore lost functioning.
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Scientifically Backed Ways To Prevent Parkinsons Disease
Dopamine plays a major role in a variety of mental and physical functions, including:
- Voluntary movement
- General behavior
Parkinsons now afflicts roughly 1.5 million people in the United States alone, with primary symptoms being body tremors, slow movement, rigid limbs, reduced memory, a shuffling gait and speech impairment. So we have to ask:
1.) What causes it?
2.) How do we prevent it?
Currently there isnt a known cure, and its not fully understood what causes the dip in dopamine however, we know that aging is the single most important risk factor for PD, with inflammation and stress contributing to cell damage. And we now know enough about the disease to understand the preventative measures that counter the aging and death of the neurons under attack.
Because there is no known cure, its critical that we prevent the disease before symptoms arise. Granted, thanks to recent advancements in modern surgical procedures, there are some safe surgeries that can mitigate some of the more severe symptoms associated with PD. The most common one now is deep brain stimulation, in which they implant an electrode into the brain that can stop some of the more severe symptoms of Parkinsons.
But this article will try to keep it from getting to that point. The less drugs and surgery we can have in our lives, the better.
Help Them Feel Normal
A disease like Parkinsons can interfere with the normalcy of someones life. Because people may focus so much on the disease and its symptoms, your loved one may start to lose their sense of self. When you talk to your loved one, dont constantly remind them that they have a chronic disease. Talk about other things like their favorite new movie or book.
Do Only Old People Get Parkinson’s Disease
Although Parkinson’s disease is much more common in people who are older than age 50, it can affect people of all ages, including even children and teenagers.
Also, just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean you’ll get Parkinson’s most people never get it. Your age is only one factor in your risks for the condition.
What You Can Expect
Parkinson does follow a broad pattern. While it moves at different paces for different people, changes tend to come on slowly. Symptoms usually get worse over time, and new ones probably will pop up along the way.
Parkinsonâs doesnât always affect how long you live. But it can change your quality of life in a major way. After about 10 years, most people will have at least one major issue, like dementia or a physical disability.
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Take Care Of Yourself
Probably one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, things caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. This includes maintaining mental and physical health by making and keeping your own medical and dental appointments. As a caregiver, it is important to keep your job whenever possible as it provides not only financial help and possibly insurance coverage, but also a sense of self-esteem. Join a support group for caregivers if possible. Support groups help you meet people who are going through what you are going though, vent frustrations, give and receive mutual support, and exchange resource information and coping strategies. Whenever possible get your sleep, take breaks, make and keep social activities, and try to keep your sense of humor.
How Does Environment Come Into It
Your environment is a hard one to pin down. Partly, that’s because it covers a lot of ground. It’s everything that’s not your genes, which could mean where you live, what you eat, chemicals you’ve come into contact with, and more.
Not only that, but it could take years for the effects from something in your environment to show up. So far, doctors have a lot of clues but no smoking gun. So you could have people who live or work in an area around chemicals tied to Parkinson’s, but many of them don’t get it.
Some research shows links between Parkinson’s and:
- Agent Orange, a chemical used to destroy trees and crops in the Vietnam War.
- Certain chemicals used in farming, such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Some metals and chemicals used in factories, such as manganese, lead, and trichlorethylene .
These can come into play based on where you live, what you do for work, or if you served in the military. Sometimes, these chemicals seep into well water, so that’s one more way they can affect you.
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What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make To Ease Parkinsons Symptoms
Exercise: Exercise helps improve muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and tremor. It is also strongly believed to improve memory, thinking and reduce the risk of falls and decrease anxiety and depression. One study in persons with Parkinsons disease showed that 2.5 hours of exercise per week resulted in improved ability to move and a slower decline in quality of life compared to those who didnt exercise or didnt start until later in the course of their disease. Some exercises to consider include strengthening or resistance training, stretching exercises or aerobics . All types of exercise are helpful.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet: This is not only good for your general health but can ease some of the non-movement related symptoms of Parkinsons, such as constipation. Eating foods high in fiber in particular can relieve constipation. The Mediterranean diet is one example of a healthy diet.
Preventing falls and maintaining balance: Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s. While you can do many things to reduce your risk of falling, the two most important are: 1) to work with your doctor to ensure that your treatments whether medicines or deep brain stimulation are optimal and 2) to consult with a physical therapist who can assess your walking and balance. The physical therapist is the expert when it comes to recommending assistive devices or exercise to improve safety and preventing falls.
What Is The Outlook For Persons With Parkinsons Disease
Although there is no cure or absolute evidence of ways to prevent Parkinsons disease, scientists are working hard to learn more about the disease and find innovative ways to better manage it, prevent it from progressing and ultimately curing it.
Currently, you and your healthcare teams efforts are focused on medical management of your symptoms along with general health and lifestyle improvement recommendations . By identifying individual symptoms and adjusting the course of action based on changes in symptoms, most people with Parkinsons disease can live fulfilling lives.
The future is hopeful. Some of the research underway includes:
- Using stem cells to produce new neurons, which would produce dopamine.
- Producing a dopamine-producing enzyme that is delivered to a gene in the brain that controls movement.
- Using a naturally occurring human protein glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor, GDNF to protect dopamine-releasing nerve cells.
Many other investigations are underway too. Much has been learned, much progress has been made and additional discoveries are likely to come.
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Causes Of Parkinsons Disease
At present, we do not know the cause of Parkinsons disease. In most people there is no family history of Parkinsons Researchers worldwide are investigating possible causes, including:
- environmental triggers, pesticides, toxins, chemicals
- genetic factors
- combinations of environment and genetic factors
- head trauma.
How Is Parkinson’s Disease Treated
If a doctor thinks a person has Parkinson’s disease, there’s reason for hope. Medicine can be used to eliminate or improve the symptoms, like the body tremors. And some experts think that a cure may be found soon.
For now, a medicine called levodopa is often given to people who have Parkinson’s disease. Called “L-dopa,” this medicine increases the amount of dopamine in the body and has been shown to improve a person’s ability to walk and move around. Other drugs also help decrease and manage the symptoms by affecting dopamine levels. In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat it. The person would get anesthesia, a special kind of medicine to prevent pain during the operation.
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Drug Therapy And Research
If the disease progresses beyond minor symptoms, drug treatment may be indicated. Drug therapy for Parkinsonâs typically provides relief for 10â15 years or more. The most commonly prescribed medication is L-dopa , and this helps replenish some of the depleted dopamine in the brain. Sinemet, a combination of levodopa and carbidopa, is the drug most doctors use to treat Parkinsonâs disease. Recent clinical studies have suggested, in the younger person, the class of drugs called âdopamine agonistsâ should be used prior to levodopa-carpidopa except in patients with cognitive problems or hallucinations. In those older than 75, dopamine agonists should be used cautiously because of an added risk of hallucinations.
Other drugs are also used, and new drugs are continually being tested. It is common for multiple drugs to be prescribed because many of them work well together to control symptoms and reduce side effects. Contrary to past beliefs, starting Sinemet in newly diagnosed people does not lead to early symptoms of dyskinesia . Current knowledge is that the disease progression causes dyskinesias, not a âresistanceâ to the drug.
Quality of life studies show that early treatment with dopaminergic medications improves daily functioning, prevents falls, and improves a personâs sense of well-being.
Trouble Moving Or Walking
Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms dont swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem stuck to the floor.
What is normal?If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.
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Eat Fresh Raw Vegetables
If you needed more reasons to eat your vegetables, this should be the clincher. Studies show that increased amounts of the B vitamin folic acid, found primarily in vegetables, can significantly reduce the risk of Parkinsons.
The best sources of folic acid are simultaneously some of the healthiest foods on the planet, namely dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus and okra all of which can be grown in your backyard! This B vitamin can also be found in avocado, legumes and lentils.
How Is Parkinson Disease Diagnosed
Parkinson disease can be hard to diagnose. No single test can identify it. Parkinson can be easily mistaken for another health condition. A healthcare provider will usually take a medical history, including a family history to find out if anyone else in your family has Parkinson’s disease. He or she will also do a neurological exam. Sometimes, an MRI or CT scan, or some other imaging scan of the brain can identify other problems or rule out other diseases.
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What Medications Are Used To Treat Parkinsons Disease
Medications are the main treatment method for patients with Parkinsons disease. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan best suited for you based on the severity of your disease at the time of diagnosis, side effects of the drug class and success or failure of symptom control of the medications you try.
Medications combat Parkinsons disease by:
- Helping nerve cells in the brain make dopamine.
- Mimicking the effects of dopamine in the brain.
- Blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain.
- Reducing some specific symptoms of Parkinsons disease.
Levodopa: Levodopa is a main treatment for the slowness of movement, tremor, and stiffness symptoms of Parkinsons disease. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine, which replenishes the low amount found in the brain of persons with Parkinsons disease. Levodopa is usually taken with carbidopa to allow more levodopa to reach the brain and to prevent or reduce the nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure and other side effects of levodopa. Sinemet® is available in an immediate release formula and a long-acting, controlled release formula. Rytary® is a newer version of levodopa/carbidopa that is a longer-acting capsule. The newest addition is Inbrija®, which is inhaled levodopa. It is used by people already taking regular carbidopa/levodopa for when they have off episodes .