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What To Expect With Parkinson’s Disease

Causes Of Parkinson’s Disease

Moving Forward: Early Parkinson’s Disease What Should I Expect?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. A reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.

What To Expect From Parkinsons Disease

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How to Spot the Early Signs of Parkinsons in Your Loved One

Parkinsons is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects everyone differently symptoms generally develop slowly over years, manifesting themselves differently from one person to the next. No two people experience Parkinsons the same way so expectations will vary, but there are many commonalities that people with the disease share.

What are the Early Symptoms of Parkinsons?

It is important to pay attention to the early signs and symptoms of Parkinsons. Following are the ten most common signs of Parkinsons disease . Its important to note that many of these symptoms can be caused by other common health issues. No single symptom should be cause for concern, but if you or a loved one are experiencing many of these symptoms it is best to consult a medical professional.

Again, one of these symptoms alone is not enough to prompt concern about Parkinsons, but put them together and it warrants a visit to the doctor.

Understanding the Five Stages of Parkinsons

In Stage One, a persons symptoms are mild and do not interfere dramatically with daily activities. Tremor and movement symptoms tend to occur on just one side of the body. Changes in posture, walking and facial expressions will begin to be noticed.

How to Treat Parkinsons Disease

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.

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What To Expect Emotionally

Much of the challenge of caregiving is emotional, not functional. It is also possible that the overwhelming functional burden makes caregivers emotionally more vulnerable and less resilient. Catalyzing Technology to Support Family Caregiving

You will experience a range of emotions over the course of your loved ones Parkinsons journey. Shock and denial at diagnosis, or validation that your suspicions were confirmed fear of the loss of control frustration as symptoms worsen satisfaction from caring for a loved one concern about finances shame because you wish it were all over exasperation, relief, anger, sadness, joy. As the disease progresses and your role as caregiver evolves, you will have to come to terms with the disease again and again.

Caregiving is a demanding job. There is always something else that could be done, so feelings of guilt at not doing it all are normal. Ask yourself if doing more is really necessary or possible. Accept your limits.

As Parkinsons progresses, it is hard to let go of the hope that your loved one might return to his or her former self or that things will go back to normal. Even when you have the diagnosis, know the statistics and witness the effects of the disease yourself, you might still feel like your relative could be the one who beats the odds.

The Physical Effects Of Parkinsons Disease

Parkinsons Disease: What To Expect

Parkinsons disease is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that causes nerve cell damage in the brain. The damage can lower dopamine levels and cause problems with movement and brain function.

Because Parkinson’s disease causes unseen changes in the brain at the beginning stages, the condition can go unnoticed until the nerve cell damage starts to show up in physical changes. Once that happens, those with Parkinsons may notice physical symptoms such as:

  • Slowed movements
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of involuntary movements

You may find that regular movements like walking become slow and unsteady or that one limb starts to spasm at first. Parkinsons can cause many physical disruptions, some that you may not notice in the beginning. Thats why physical therapy is such an important part of your treatment plan if you have the condition.

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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.

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.

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Supplement Dopamine So You Can Function At An Optimal Level

This is typically done through your Parkinson’s medications. By no means am I anti-medication. Medications should be used as a tool to bring you up to a point where you can function in your day-to-day activites, participate in the things you love, exercise, and maximize your quality of life. That’s what we’re here for, after all. I like to tackle the first 2 steps and then help my clients determine their proper supplemental dose of Parkinsons medication because often exercise, nutrition, hydration, and good sleep can dramatically decrease the amount of supplemental medication they need to be taking.

What Is Parkinsonism Is It Different From Parkinsons

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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.

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Stages Of Parkinsons Disease

Neurologists usually describe the progression of Parkinsons symptoms in stages, using the system known as the Hoehn and Yahr scale. These stages are:

  • Stage I Symptoms are seen on one side of the body only.
  • Stage II Symptoms are seen on both sides of the body. Theres no impairment of balance.
  • Stage III Balance impairment has begun. In this mild- to moderate stage of the disease, the person is still physically independent.
  • Stage IV This stage is marked by severe disability, but the person is still able to walk or stand unassisted.
  • Stage V The person is wheelchair-bound or bedridden unless assisted.

Physical Therapy For Parkinson’s Disease: Know What To Expect

Parkinsons disease is one of the most common neurological disorders in the U.S., largely impacting more men over the age of 60 than women and younger age groups. While the life expectancy of a person with Parkinsons is not much different than the general population, the condition can certainly impact the quality of your life.

The key to improving life with Parkinsons disease is prompt, ongoing treatment. Interventions like medication, physical therapy, speech therapy, and lifestyle changes can provide a better outlook for your future with the condition.

Physical therapy, in particular, can help you address the physical changes that happen as a result of Parkinsons disease.

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What Is The Treatment For Parkinson’s Disease

There is currently no treatment to cure Parkinson’s disease. Several therapies are available to delay the onset of motor symptoms and to ameliorate motor symptoms. All of these therapies are designed to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain either by replacing dopamine, mimicking dopamine, or prolonging the effect of dopamine by inhibiting its breakdown. Studies have shown that early therapy in the non-motor stage can delay the onset of motor symptoms, thereby extending quality of life.

The most effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease is levodopa , which is converted to dopamine in the brain. However, because long-term treatment with levodopa can lead to unpleasant side effects , its use is often delayed until motor impairment is more severe. Levodopa is frequently prescribed together with carbidopa , which prevents levodopa from being broken down before it reaches the brain. Co-treatment with carbidopa allows for a lower levodopa dose, thereby reducing side effects.

In earlier stages of Parkinson’s disease, substances that mimic the action of dopamine , and substances that reduce the breakdown of dopamine inhibitors) can be very efficacious in relieving motor symptoms. Unpleasant side effects of these preparations are quite common, including swelling caused by fluid accumulation in body tissues, drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, hallucinations, and nausea.

Surgery And Deep Brain Stimulation

Physical and Occupational Therapy for Parkinson

Deep brain stimulation is a treatment for Parkinsonâs disease that uses an implantable pacemaker-like device to deliver electrical pulses to parts of the brain involved in movement. The DBS system consists of leads precisely inserted into a specific brain target, the neurostimulator implanted in the chest, and extension wires that connect the leads to the neurostimulator. Though implantation of the system requires a neurosurgical procedure, the treatment itself consists of long-term electrical stimulation. Advantages of DBS include its ability to reduce the high doses of medications , its adjustability , and its reversibility DBS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for PD in 2002 and according to Medtronic , more than 80,000 patients have undergone DBS surgery worldwide.

Typical candidates are those who have motor fluctuations or periods of âoffâ time with troublesome symptoms alternating with periods of âonâ time with good symptom control, and also with possible periods of excessive movement .

Not all patients with Parkinsonâs disease are good candidates for treatment with DBS. Approximately 10â20% of patients considered for possible treatment with DBS include those:

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Living With Parkinsons Disease: What You Should Know

Living with Parkinson’s disease can be unpredictable and difficult for others to understand. Someone with PD may look normal from the outside but be suffering pain, fatigue, and depression on the inside.

Whether youve recently been diagnosed with PD or you know someone who has, heres what to expect from life with Parkinsons disease:

Pain is often unpredictable

People with PD say that it is hard to make plans because the pain can be so unpredictable. The physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can also be exhausting, so someone with PD may be able to socialize and live fairly normally on one day and not another.

Parkinson’s is more than a movement disorder.

Because tremor is the hallmark symptom of Parkinson’s disease, people may not understand the effects it can have on a person’s life. Patients often report that the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s such as depression, sleep disorders, fatigue and problems with memory are more debilitating than the movement-related symptoms.

Depression is common

Over 50% of people living with Parkinson’s disease will experience depression. This is thought to be due to the chemical changes that take place in the brain, as well as the physical and emotional impact of living with PD. Certain lifestyle changes, alternative therapies, and antidepressant medications can help relieve symptoms of depression.

Parkinsons disease is a progressive illness

Parkinson’s often leads to dementia.

I Know The Urge Is Strong But Please Dont Run Away

In my physical therapy practice, I work daily with clients who are downright terrified after their diagnosis. They finally ended up in a neurologists office with a few benign symptoms and their doctors feedback went something like this:

It looks like you have Parkinsons disease, which is a degenerative neurological disease. Take these medications, theyll help with the symptoms. There is no cure. Come back and see me in a few months.

and thats it.

Talk about traumatic!

They frantically search for answers via the internet and come to me with a list of fears a mile long that – in order to respect my no doomsday clause – well leave unnamed for today.

What can I expect?, they ask.

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Deep Brain Stimulation For Parkinson’s: Am I A Candidate

Deep brain stimulation is not a cure, but it can relieve your symptoms from Parkinson’s disease when medications are not an option. Only you and your doctor can decide if this surgical procedure is right for you. You may be a candidate for deep brain stimulation if:

  • You have idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Patients with atypical parkinsonism are not candidates.
  • You have good motor function and independence during your best “on” state when taking the drug Sinemet.

You’re Going To Learn A Lot About Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

You’re going to learn a lot about this disease. Buckle up. Nevertheless, you’re going to want to acclimate before you go in too deep of water or stay in too long. Moderation. Don’t go to the final stages when you’re in slight tremors. The only thing you can expect there is pain you may never experience. Don’t cross bridges until you have to or are ready to.

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How Do I Prevent Falls From Common Hazards

  • Floors: Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its usual place.
  • Bathroom: Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower. Use non-skid bath mats on the floor or install wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Lighting: Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well-lit. Install a night light in your bathroom or hallway and staircase. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night. Make sure lamps or light switches are within reach of the bed if you have to get up during the night.
  • Kitchen: Install non-skid rubber mats near the sink and stove. Clean spills immediately.
  • Stairs: Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure. Install a rail on both sides of the stairs. If stairs are a threat, it might be helpful to arrange most of your activities on the lower level to reduce the number of times you must climb the stairs.
  • Entrances and doorways: Install metal handles on the walls adjacent to the doorknobs of all doors to make it more secure as you travel through the doorway.

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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So What Can You Expect Once Youve Been Diagnosed With Parkinsons

No one has a crystal ball. If someone’s put a fearful image into your head about what to expect when it comes to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, I encourage you invite you… to dump that thought, and start replacing it with empowering ones. You get what you expect. And so, if you’re educating yourself and you’re empowering yourself, tomorrow can be a better day than today is. Doing that consistently one day at a time, youll realize theres something you can be doing every single day to help you improve your vitality, your independence, and your mobility for the long run.

So, take those small steps, gain momentum.

None of us can fully control what the future holds, but you have a lot more power than people may have been telling you. So I want to encourage you to use that.

If you found this helpful, I would appreciate if you shared it with someone you know.

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.

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