Parkinson’s disease (PD) is an age-related and progressive disease of the brain that causes loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls movement. it is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that is caused due to the lack of dopamine in the brain. For those who are not aware, dopamine is a substance that allows nerve impulses to travel smoothly from one cell to the other. When this gets reduced, the messages from the brain to the nerve cells aren’t properly transmitted, hence causing tremors, rigidity, and slowness of movement among patients.
World Parkinson’s Day is celebrated to create awareness about the disease and it also marks the birthday of James Parkinson, a London physician, who first described the disease.
According to Dr Manish Gupta, executive consultant of Neurology Department, Jaypee Hospital, about 7 to 10 million people of eight billion global population are affected by the disorder.
It can also be caused by environmental toxins, believes Dr Gupta. He says, “Despite no conclusive evidence that this is a cause, some scientists believe that an internal or external toxin affects the body’s ability to produce dopamine. One needs to be vigilant about MPTP, pesticides such as paraquat and rotenone, metal or organic toxins and manganese polonium used in welding as these can accelerate Parkinson’s disease”.
Besides, it can also be due to genetic factors, though it accounts for only 10-15 per cent of the cases, says Dr PR Krishnan, consultant neurologist, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore.
Signs and Symptoms
There are two types of symptoms — motor and non-motor, says Dr Vinit Suri, senior consultant Neurology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. The primary motor symptoms include tremors, rigidity, postural imbalance, reduced eye blinking and sleep problems. While non-motor symptoms include memory disorder, restless leg and compulsive gambling.
Bradykinesia is another common sign according to Dr Gupta. It is when people have difficulty initiating movement and also have a lack of coordination while performing normal activities. Other symptoms include anxiety, depression, skin problems and increased sweating. Symptoms impair daily activities, for example, dressing, eating, and brushing teeth.
An early and accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is important, continues Dr Gupta. It helps in developing good treatment strategies to maintain a high quality of life for as long as possible. However, there is no test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease with certainty.
An initial assessment is made based on the patient’s medical history, followed by a neurological exam, and the evident symptoms. Accordingly, an evaluation is done and the process of medication and treatments starts. Surgical therapies may also be considered if the disease cannot be controlled by medical treatment.