Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a condition of the central nervous system that affects the motor system and thus movement. Each year in the United States there are more than 200,000 cases of Parkinson’s which causes uncomfortable symptoms like stiffness, tremors, and slow movement. While treatment is available for the disease there is no cure. Parkinson’s disease lasts for many years or can be life-long. Oftentimes, the condition starts with just a tremor in one hand and gradually leads to other symptoms. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may be worried about your future. Know that the condition can be managed with the right treatment and tips.
What Exactly Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that develops when nerve cells within the brain do not produce a sufficient amount of a brain chemical known as dopamine. The disorder belongs to a group of conditions known as movement disorders which describe a range of abnormal body movements with a neurological cause. Other movement disorders include ataxia, cerebral palsy, and Tourette syndrome. An estimated one million U.S. adults are believed to live with PD with over 60,000 undiagnosed each year.
What Symptoms Does Parkinson’s Cause?
Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s can greatly vary from person to person. Some of the early signs of the disorder may be mild and go unnoticed. Many times, symptoms occur on just one side of the body while other times symptoms affect the entire body. The most common signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include the following:
- Tremors: This shaking motion often begins in a limb, such as your fingers or hand. Some people will experience pin-rolling tremors which involve the back-and-forth rubbing of your forefinger and thumb. Others may notice a tremor in the hand while at rest.
- Rigid Muscles: Some degree of muscle stiffness is common with Parkinson’s. Rigid muscles can cause some discomfort and may result in a limited range of motion.
- Bradykinesia (Slowed Movement): As PD progresses, you may notice that your movements have slowed. Simple tasks such as walking to the kitchen or getting in and out of your chair may be more difficult and time-consuming. You may also notice that your feet drag slightly when you walk.
- Impaired Balance and Posture: Individuals with Parkinson’s may suffer from poor posture and balance issues. Over time, other problems can occur such as the decreased ability to perform unconscious movements like smiling or blinking.
- Changes in Speech: Some individuals with PD will suffer from speech changes. You may notice that your speech is monotone or that you speak quickly, softly, slur your words, or hesitate before talking. Your writing may also be affected, becoming harder to write. Your words may also appear smaller.
- Secondary Symptoms: While most symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are related to movement and loss of muscle control, some individuals will experience secondary symptoms. Some of the most common secondary symptoms include anxiety, confusion, memory loss, dementia, depression, constipation, increased sweating, difficulty swallowing, skin problems, and urinary frequency.
How Does Parkinson’s Affect the Brain?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects several areas of the brain. One of the biggest regions it affects is the substantia nigra which directly controls movement and balance. Parkinson’s has been found related to several mutations in three known genes, including SNCA, UCHL1, and LRRK2. In addition to certain genes, research has found that some environmental factors contribute to the development of PD. Genetic testing has recently become available for testing certain genes for the disease.
Is Parkinson’s Heredity?
An estimated 15 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have a family history of the disease. Research has identified certain genes that are commonly passed down in families which have been found to increase a person’s likelihood of developing the disorder. There are also certain recessive genes related to PD which means that the parent may carry the gene but not have the condition linked to it. If a child inherits this recessive gene from both parents, they are at an increased risk of developing the disease. If you have a family history of Parkinson’s or is at an increased risk, you may want to consider having genetic testing performed.
Know that mutations in associated genes do not directly cause the disease but do increase a person’s risk of developing it. Some people with these mutations will never go onto develop PD. If your risk of developing Parkinson’s is increased, it is important to stay away from certain environmental triggers that can increase your risk of developing the disorder later in life. Environmental triggers include exposure to certain toxins from rural living or occupational exposure, as well as severe injuries like head trauma.
Do I Need In-Home Care Services?
If you have a loved one with Parkinson’s disease, you may notice that it has become harder and harder for that person to care for themselves. As there is no cure for the disease, it is up to caregivers to provide the person with the care and compassion they need to thrive. Of course, this is not always an easy task for family members. That is why in-home care services are so popular. In-home care allows caregivers to get a break from caring for their loved ones by allowing trained professionals to provide this important in-home care.
In-home care professionals can provide assistance with all aspects of care, including personal hygiene, cleaning, dressing, preparing meals, and cooking. They can also provide other essential services such as transportation to and from the grocery store and doctor appointments. In-home care experts also offer companionship to people with Parkinson’s to ward off the emotional effects of the disease, such as loneliness and depression. Family members can also benefit. When you know that someone is taking good care of your loved one, you can achieve greater peace of mind. Learn more about caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease or schedule a free consultation with Comfort Home Care in Rockville, MD.