Symptoms Of Parkinsons In The Elderly
- Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, or face
- Rigidity of the limbs and trunk
- Slowness of movement
- Increased salivation and sweating
How Is Parkinson Disease Treated
Parkinson disease can’t be cured. But there are different therapies that can help control symptoms. Many of the medicines used to treat Parkinson disease help to offset the loss of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Most of these medicines help manage symptoms quite successfully.
A procedure called deep brain stimulation may also be used to treat Parkinson disease. It sends electrical impulses into the brain to help control tremors and twitching movements. Some people may need surgery to manage Parkinson disease symptoms. Surgery may involve destroying small areas of brain tissue responsible for the symptoms. However, these surgeries are rarely done since deep brain stimulation is now available.
What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinson’s
Parkinsons is broken into early and late stages.
- Early-stage mild symptoms or disability.
- Late-stage motor symptoms have further developed and there is more limitation in day-to-day life.
The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease affect your physical movement :
- About 70% of people with Parkinsons have a tremor.
- The tremor involves shaking, particularly when resting. It often occurs in one hand or arm rather than both .
You may also experience a range of other physical and mental symptoms , such as:
- depression, anxiety or loss of interest in life
- disturbance of normal sleep
- trouble swallowing or speaking
- skin sensations and pain.
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s are also the main symptoms of a number of conditions that are grouped together under the term parkinsonism.
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Young Onset Parkinsons : An Introduction
Although the average age to develop Parkinsons is around 60, young onset Parkinsons occurs in 5-10% of people diagnosed. 20% are under the age of 50. Some challenges in Parkinsons are universal, regardless of age, but there are a number of issues specific to younger people.
Generally, Parkinsons proceeds more slowly in younger people. While no two people are the same, someone whose onset age is 40 can expect to work for another 15-20 years on average. For someone with an onset age of 60, the average figure would be half that. These figures are based on the kinds of treatment available today. Future treatment will be even more effective in prolonging the productive life of people with Parkinsons.
Larry Gifford hosts a panel discussion on Living Well with Young Onset Parkinsons in May of 2020.
The following characteristics tend to be present in young onset Parkinsons:
- Young onset Parkinsons is less likely to lead to dementia and balance problems
- It is more likely to include focal dystonia, which is cramping or abnormal posturing of one part of the body.
- Younger people are more sensitive to the benefits of Parkinson medications, but they tend to experience the dyskinetic side effects of levodopa sooner than older people.
- They also tend to experience dose-related fluctuations at an earlier stage of the disease, including wearing off* and the on-off effect. See Parkinson Canada Information Sheet, Parkinsons Medications: What you need to know!
Forget Fava Beans For Parkinsons
Fava beans contain an amino acid known as levodopa. Levodopa is an active ingredient in some Parkinsons medications. Seems like a good reason to eat a lot of fava beans, right?
Nope. Dr. Gostkowski explains that the amount in the beans is tiny compared to whats in your medication. You cant eat enough fava beans to have any effect on your symptoms, he says.
Bananas also have levodopa in them, Dr. Gostkowski says. But, like fava beans, its not possible to eat enough bananas to affect PD symptoms. Of course, if you like fava beans or bananas, enjoy! But dont go overboard or expect them to work like medication. Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains for balance.
Im 35 With Two Young Children And Parkinsons
At 29, Ellie Finch Hulme was diagnosed with a condition often associated with much older people – Parkinson’s disease. She decided it wasn’t going to stop her living her life the way she wanted to.
Ellie doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone with Parkinson’s disease, as one of her recent tweets makes clear.
One 35-year-oldTwo kids, aged 4 and 2Three different medicationsFive years living with #parkinsonsAnd I don’t even look like your neighbour’s friend’s gran.
People are often shocked when they meet her for the first time, she says.
“I volunteer in a local charity shop occasionally around the kids and around my work and if I’m trembling, if I have to wrap something up – because anything can set off your tremor – someone will say something like, ‘Is it your first day here?’ And I’ll be like, ‘No, I’ve got Parkinson’s.'”
They expect someone with Parkinson’s to be white-haired and stooping, but Ellie, who lives in Farnham in Surrey, has young onset Parkinson’s disease, and was diagnosed before she was 30.
How Environmental Factors Could Cause Parkinsons Disease
Scientists differ about the extent that brain cells are impacted by environmental factors. However, the statistics associated with the disease show that the environment can play a very large role in whether parkinsons disease develops.
Most often, it is exposure to toxic chemicals that could play a role in the development of Parkinsons disease. Usually, these combine with genetic factors to produce the conditions that cause Parkinsons.
Increasing scientific evidence suggests that Parkinsons may be caused by environmental factors such as exposure to herbicides such as Paraquat.
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What Causes Parkinson Disease
Parkinson disease arises from decreased dopamine production in the brain. The absence of dopamine makes it hard for the brain to coordinate muscle movements. Low dopamine also contributes to mood and cognitive problems later in the course of the disease. Experts don’t know what triggers the development of Parkinson disease most of the time. Early onset Parkinson disease is often inherited and is the result of certain gene defects.
Early Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Can Be Overlooked
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are divided into 2 groups: motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.
Early non-motor symptoms can be subtle and it’s possible to overlook them as signs of Parkinson’s: for example, anxiety and depression, fatigue, loss of smell, speech problems, difficulty sleeping, erectile dysfunction, incontinence and constipation. Another sign of Parkinson’s is handwriting that becomes smaller.
Motor symptoms of Parkinson’s can include tremor , slowness of movement , muscle rigidity and instability .
It’s possible for non-motor symptoms to start occurring up to a decade before any motor symptoms emerge. Years can pass before symptoms are obvious enough to make a person to go to the doctor.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to Parkinson’s disease different people will experience different symptoms, and of varying severity. One in 3 people, for example, won’t experience tremor.
On average, 37 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every day in Australia. Parkinson’s Australia
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Reasons Why Parkinsons Disease Occurs
The scientific reason given for Parkinsons disease is that the patient has lost nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. A very important chemical called dopamine is produced by the substantia nigra. The loss of the ability to produce dopamine contributes to the early stages of Parkinsons disease.
Is There A Cure For Parkinson’s Disease
Although research is ongoing, to date there is no known cure or way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. But, research has made remarkable progress. There is very real hope that the causes, whether genetic or environmental, will be identified and the precise effects of these causes on brain function will be understood. These remarkable achievements give real hope for the future.
Still, even though there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, by identifying individual symptoms and determining a proper course of treatment, most people with the disease can live enjoyable, fulfilling lives.
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Medications And Parkinson’s Symptoms
Taking certain medicationsspecifically ones that block the action of dopaminecould cause Parkinson’s disease symptoms. It’s a condition called drug-induced parkinsonism, and while it isn’t Parkinson’s disease itself, it can look and feel a lot like it.
Here are some of the drugs can cause Parkinson’s disease symptoms:
- Anti-nausea medications
- Drugs that treat hyperkinetic movement disorders
Keep in mind that even though these medications could cause symptoms similar to Parkinson’s, they don’t cause the disease itself. And most of the time, the symptoms go away within hours or days once you stop taking that drug, per the Parkinson’s Disease Society.
In some cases, the Parkinson’s symptoms don’t go away after a person stops taking the medication that led to them, and they’re eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers don’t think that the medication was the cause of Parkinson’s in those cases, but that those individuals’ dopamine levels were already depleted, and the side effects of the drugs revealed their underlying Parkinson’s disease. Put another way, the medication was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.
Research on what causes Parkinson’s disease continues to grow. If you experience symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as a tremor, slowed movement, balance problems, or changes in your speech or writing, connect with a doctor to diagnose the condition.
Toxic Substances That Have Been Linked To Parkinsons Disease
There are numerous environmental toxins that researchers have tied to the neurological disorders known as parkinson disease. Here are some that have been linked:
- Agent Orange This was a chemical defoliant used in Vietnam that is already tied to cancer. While there is no definitive link with Parkinsons, the VA at least believes that there is a possibility that the two are tied.
- Solvents Some studies have shown a link between Trichloroethylene, a substance contained in many solvents, and Parkinsons.
- PCBs polychlorinated biphenyls were extensively used in the 1970s. They have been often found in the brains of people who have suffered from Parkinsons.
- Pesticides and herbicides -substances such as insecticides, pesticides and herbicides contain chemicals that researchers have strongly linked with higher incidences of Parkinsons. One of the leading contributors is considered to be Paraquat. For information on Paraquat Parkinsons lawsuits, look here.
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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.
In Summary Reduce Your Stress
The most important thing we can do for our long-term health, both physical and cognitive, is to reduce the stress in our bodies. All stress physical, emotional and chemical causes inflammation and long-term damage throughout the body.
Whether youre seeking Parkinsons prevention techniques or ways to alleviate symptoms, any of the above dietary and lifestyle practices can have long-term health benefits. Drinking green tea, eating organic, local vegetables, and regular aerobic exercise all significantly reduce the long-term cumulative damage done by stress.
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Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
You can attribute the symptoms of Parkinson’s to a deficiency of a chemical in your brain called dopamine. The four classic motor symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
Shaking and tremors while you are resting is typically the first sign of Parkinson’s disease, but about one-third of patients won’t experience those symptoms. These symptoms tend to be worsened by emotional and physical stress. Sleep or moving can help reduce these issues.
Parkinson’s disease is both chronic and progressive with symptoms generally getting worse as time goes on. As it progresses, other disabilities can develop, including:
- Difficulty talking and swallowing
- A sudden inability to move,
Some sufferers also have symptoms that don’t affect their motor skills, including:
- Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and memory loss
- Loss of smell
- Trouble sleeping, including thrashing and other sudden movements
- Change in blood pressure
Unique Characteristics Of Young
Although Parkinson’s is similar among people of all ages, those with young-onset PD generally have slower disease progression. They also tend to experience more side effects from dopaminergic medications and are more likely to have dyskinesias in response to the drug levodopa. Dyskinesias are abnormal, involuntary movements. They appear like a dance with wiggling movements of arms, legs, body or face.
Other problems associated with PD, such as memory loss, confusion, and problems with balance tend to occur less often in people with young-onset Parkinson’s. However, as with PD in older patients, the disease severity and symptoms vary from person to person.1,2
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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.
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.
Medicines For Parkinson’s Disease
Medicines prescribed for Parkinson’s include:
- Drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain
- Drugs that affect other brain chemicals in the body
- Drugs that help control nonmotor symptoms
The main therapy for Parkinson’s is levodopa, also called L-dopa. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine to replenish the brain’s dwindling supply. Usually, people take levodopa along with another medication called carbidopa. Carbidopa prevents or reduces some of the side effects of levodopa therapysuch as nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and restlessnessand reduces the amount of levodopa needed to improve symptoms.
People with Parkinson’s should never stop taking levodopa without telling their doctor. Suddenly stopping the drug may have serious side effects, such as being unable to move or having difficulty breathing.
Other medicines used to treat Parkinsons symptoms include:
- Dopamine agonists to mimic the role of dopamine in the brain
- MAO-B inhibitors to slow down an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain
- COMT inhibitors to help break down dopamine
- Amantadine, an old antiviral drug, to reduce involuntary movements
- Anticholinergic drugs to reduce tremors and muscle rigidity
What Can You Do If You Have Pd
- Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include the following:
- A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain
- Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist
- Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life
For more information, visit our Treatment page.
Page reviewed by Dr. Chauncey Spears, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinsons Foundation Center of Excellence.
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