Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurological and degenerative disease that affects the neurons responsible for the control of movement. It is a progressive condition: the symptoms appear gradually and slowly get worse.
PD received its name from James Parkinson, a British doctor, author of "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy" published in 1817; however, as early as 5000BC it is possible to find some descriptions of the disease in India.
The average age of onset is around 60 years of age, but one in ten are under 50. As age increases, the number of patients affected by PD increases. Slightly more men than women are affected.
Everyone with PD has different symptoms. As PD is a progressive condition, symptoms begin gradually, normally in just one side of the body at first, although both sides will eventually be affected, and worsen over time.
The most common PD symptoms are associated with movement, known as "motor symptoms", and there are three main motor symptoms or cardinal symptoms:
Other motor symptoms are:
These are the symptoms not related to movement and they can have a considerable impact in your quality of life: Poor sense of smell, constipation, depression, pain, fatigue, thinking and memory problems, and swallowing problems.
PD is not easy to diagnose, as there are no specific laboratory tests for such diagnose. The diagnose must be done by a neurologist that will examine the person for any physical signs of PD and take a detailed history of the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
The symptoms vary from person to person and there are other conditions with similar symptoms. For these reasons misdiagnose is sometimes made and it's important the diagnose is made by a specialist.
At present, there is no cure for Parkinson's, but medication can provide a relief of symptoms for a long time. As we know the loss of dopamine in the brain causes the symptoms, there are medications for replacing the dopamine lost, such as levodopa (precursor of dopamine), the dopamine agonists (that mimic the role of dopamine of the brain), the MAO-B inhibitors and the COMT inhibitors (that avoid the degradation of the dopamine).
In some carefully selected patients, a surgical therapy called DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) may be appropriate.
Everyone's experience of Parkinson's is different, and the debilitating PD symptoms, affects not only patients: family members are often involved in helping patients and cope with the decline in their ability to function.
There are many patient organizations working at a local, national and global level that can help and support PD patients and their families e.g. “European Parkinson's Disease Association”, EPDA at European level.
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