What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease of the substantia nigra (an area in the basal ganglia). The disease was first discovered and its symptoms documented in 1817 (Essay on the Shaking Palsy) by the British physician Dr. James Parkinson; the associated biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified in the 1960s. The disease is a progressive movement disorder of the extrapyramidal system, which controls and adjusts communication between
neurons in the brain and muscles in the human body.
Parkinson's disease involves a breakdown of the nerve cells in the motor area of the brain. As the cells break down, there is a shortage of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical that carries messages to the body. When there is a shortage of dopamine, the messages that regulate movement aren't sent properly. Parkinson's disease happens when nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra gradually die. These cells normally produce dopamine, a chemical that helps to relay messages between areas of the brain that control body movement. The death of cells in this area of the brain leads to abnormally low levels of dopamine, which makes it difficult for a person with Parkinson's disease to control muscle tension and muscle movement, both at rest and during periods of activity.
Parkinson's disease is progressive, meaning the signs and symptoms become worse over time. But although Parkinson's may eventually be disabling, the disease often progresses gradually, and most people have many years of productive living after a diagnosis. Unlike other serious neurologic diseases, Parkinson's disease is treatable. For decades, the drug levodopa, commonly known as L-dopa, has been the mainstay of Parkinson's disease treatment. But L-dopa can cause side effects, and it may become less effective as the disease worsens, especially as new symptoms develop. In addition, responses to the drug may become more erratic over time. For that reason newer drugs are now also used, either alone or in combination with levodopa.
It is estimated that 4 million people are suffering from the disease world-wide. Parkinson's disease affects all ethnic groups. Although Parkinson's disease occurs in every part of the world, because it is mainly an illness of later life, it is more common in developed countries where people live longer. The overall prevalence of Parkinson's disease in Europe is approximately 1.6 – 1.8 per 100 in persons over 65 years of age. Because of the ageing of the world population, the importance of Parkinson's disease as a public health issue is expected to increase.
More information on Parkinson's disease
What is Parkinson's disease? - Parkinson's disease is a progressive and degenerative movement disorder with primary motor symptoms. Parkinson's disease results from degeneration of dopamine-releasing neurons of the substantia nigra.
What causes Parkinson's disease? - The immediate cause of Parkinson's disease is degeneration of brain cells in the area known as the substantia nigra, one of the movement control centers of the brain.
Who're the risk factors for Parkinson's disease? - Age is one of the main risk factors for Parkinson's disease. Reduced estrogen levels may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease.
What're the complications of Parkinson's disease? - Dementia is the common complication of elderly Parkinson patient. Parkinson's disease poses a triple threat on the emotional health of its victims.
What're the stages Parkinson's disease? - Parkinson's disease may also be described by five stages: stage I (mild or early disease), stage II, stage III (moderate disease)...
What're the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease? - Early symptoms may include slight tremor or stiffness, a reduced sense of smell, a tendency to reduce body movements, difficulty walking.
What're the symptoms of Parkinson's disease? - Symptoms of Parkinson's disease include tremor, muscle stiffness, abdominal cramps, rapid speech with little expression in the voice, problems with sleeping.
How is Parkinson's disease diagnosed? - Diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is based on symptoms. There is no specific diagnostic procedure or laboratory test to establish the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
What're the treatments for Parkinson's disease? - There is no cure for Parkinson's disease. The treatment of Parkinson's disease mainly relies on replacing dopamine with levodopa.
What medications cure Parkinson's disease? - Drugs currently used to treat Parkinson's disease make movement easier and can prolong function for many years. The pharmacological treatment of Parkinson's disease is complex.
What about surgeries for Parkinson's disease? - Surgery for Parkinson's disease include pallidotomy, thalamotomy, deep-brain stimulation, and transplantation.
What about physical therapy for Parkinson's disease? - Following a program of regular exercise can help people with Parkinson's disease maintain mobility. Physical therapy can help Parkinson's disease patient.
What is l-dopa (levodopa)? - Levodopa, or L-dopa, which is converted to dopamine in the brain, remains the gold standard for treating Parkinson's disease.