1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, and every year 60,000 people find out they have the disease. There is research indicating that the number of older people (over 50) suffering from Parkinson’s disease in 15 highly populated countries will rocket to 8.7 million (double today’s number) by 2030.
Risk of developing Parkinson’s increases with age. Being exposed to industrial chemicals also increases risk.
Parkinson’s Disease and the Brain
Parkinson’s disease is found primarily in people over 50. 85% of the disease’s victims are in that age group. However, it can occur in people of any age. It is a neurological disease, and its victims experience progressively worse balance and coordination.
Men and women are at nearly the same risk of developing the disease. A family history of the disease is believed to impact a person’s risk.
Symptoms of the Disease
Parkinson’s disease attacks the substantia nigra (a region of the brain). This region’s nerve cells produce dopamine and thus help to facilitate body movement. The disease’s symptoms usually emerge when the brain’s dopamine-producing cells fall to 20% of their original number. Parkinson’s main symptoms include:
- Tremors. One of the first signs of Parkinson’s is uncontrollable and unexplained trembling and shaking. This occurs in the legs, hands, arms, or face.
- Balance. Parkinson’s sufferers experience impaired walking and coordination. This is because the disease adversely impacts balance.
- Rigidity. Difficulty moving the legs, trunk, and arms, or severe stiffness, are other symptoms of the disease.
- Bradykinesia. This term refers to the Parkinson’s characteristic of extremely slow movements.
Parkinson’s symptoms usually begin mildly but increase in severity. They will become so severe as to impede one’s daily life. Treatment is often urged at this point.
Life After Developing Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s is a lifelong, progressive condition. Unfortunately, it becomes more severe as time passes.
When the condition first begins, the symptoms may only occur on one side of the body or in one area. In the beginning, treatment may not be required. However, as the disease worsens, the following symptoms will likely be experienced.
- Increased incidence of falling and impaired balance
- Impaired hand writing
- Problems sleeping and staying asleep
- Problems controlling the bladder
- Appearance of symptoms on side of body previously free of symptoms
- More severe tremors that can impede day to day life and activities
- Slow movement (bradykinesia) becomes more extreme, thus seriously appearing one’s ability to function
- Swallowing and chewing become difficult
- Monotone speech
- Walking (gait) becomes shuffling and slow
- Posture becomes stooped
- Constipation becomes more frequent
- Facial expressions become stifled, appearing blank
The rate of progressions of the disease is unique to the individual. It is usually gradual, but can be more rapid. Depression and anxiety can be caused by stress caused by the disease.
While Parkinson’s disease does not yet have a cure, treatments are available to address symptoms and slow down the disease’s progression. It is crucial for the patient to keep close and continual contact with his or her doctors, and to consult with them regularly. Symptoms require monitoring, and medications usually require regular adjustment.