You have probably heard of Parkinson’s disease but you may not know some of the important details surrounding its effects, treatments, and how to live with it. It is believed that 1 in 500 people will develop Parkinson’s disease later in their lives, with 1 in 20 of these people being under the age of 40. If you or a loved one live with this illness, here are some of the key points you should know to maintain quality of life for as long as possible.
What Causes Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells in this part of the brain produce a chemical called dopamine that acts as a messenger between the parts of the brain and nervous system, helping to control and co-ordinate body movements. If these nerve cells become damaged or die, the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced, meaning that the part of the brain controlling movement cannot work as it normal would. As a result, movements become abnormal and slow.
It is currently unknown why this loss of nerve cells occurs, although research is still ongoing to identify the potential causes. It’s currently believed to be a combination of genetic changes and environmental factors that are responsible for the condition, but further research is required before we can have a definitive answer.
The Symptoms of Parkinson’s
The symptoms of Parkinson’s can range from sleep problems to trouble balancing, but there are 3 main ones to look out for:
- Shaking or trembling in particular parts of the body, especially when relaxed
- Slower bodily movements, making everyday tasks more challenging to undertake
- Muscle stiffness causing painful cramps and making moving almost impossible
While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are treatments available that can help relieve the symptoms and ensure that the sufferer stays comfortable.
These treatments include:
- Supportive therapies, such as physiotherapy
You may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease as symptoms are usually mild, but as they progress you may want to consider them. You also may need regular appointments with a specialist so that your condition can be monitored.
If you think you may be showing any of the aforementioned symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed, we strongly recommend booking a consultation with your doctor. There are also numerous online support sources available such as the dedicated Parkinson’s page on the NHS website and Parkinson’s UK charity.