Know more about Parkinson's disease
What is Parkinson's?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is movement disorder of the nervous system that worsens over time. As nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain weaken or are damaged or die, people may begin to notice problems with movement, tremor, stiffness in the limbs or the trunk of the body, or impaired balance. As these symptoms become more obvious, people may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Not everyone with one or more of these symptoms has PD, as the symptoms appear in other diseases as well.
No cure for PD exists today, but research is ongoing and medications or surgery can often provide substantial improvement with motor symptoms.
What is the prognosis?
The average life expectancy of a person with PD is generally the same as for people who do not have the disease. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for people with PD. However, in the late stages, PD may no longer respond to medications and can become associated with serious complications such as choking, pneumonia, and falls.
PD is a slowly progressive disorder. It is not possible to predict what course the disease will take for an individual person.
PD is a slowly progressive disorder. It is not possible to predict what course the disease will take for an individual person. One commonly used scale neurologists use for describing how the symptoms of PD have progressed in a patient is the Hoehn and Yahr scale.
How is the disease treated?
At present, there is no cure for PD, but medications or surgery can often provide improvement in the motor symptoms.
Medications for PD fall into three categories:
• drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain. The most common drugs for PD are dopamine precursors—substances such as levodopa that cross the blood-brain barrier and are then changed into dopamine. Other drugs mimic dopamine or prevent or slow its breakdown.
• drugs that affect other neurotransmitters in the body in order to ease some of the symptoms of the disease. For example, anticholinergic drugs interfere with production or uptake of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. These can be effective in reducing tremors.
• medications that help control the non-motor symptoms of the disease, that is, the symptoms that don’t affect movement. For example, people with PD-related depression may be prescribed antidepressants.
Symptoms may significantly improve at first with medication but symptoms reappear over time as the Parkinson’s worsens and drugs become less effective.
Before the discovery of levodopa, surgery was an option for treating PD. Studies in the past few decades have led to great improvements in surgical techniques, and surgery is again considered for people with PD for whom drug therapy is no longer sufficient.
Additional resources on Parkinson's disease:
www.parkinsons.org.uk - This is the UK’s Parkinson’s support and research charity. They provide information and support through their UK-wide team of information and support workers