It has been nearly two centuries since the name of a famous English surgeon by the name of James Parkinson was assigned to a chronic neurological condition affecting nearly 10 million people worldwide known as Parkinson’s disease (PD). For years Parkinson’s specialists have based their treatment of this progressive neurological disease on the clinical characteristics involving the 4 cardinal symptoms of PD – tremors at rest, slowness of movement, stiffness in muscles, and gait abnormalities. However, as it turns out the movement abnormalities are just the tip of the iceberg. PD is a complex disorder in which there is no one typical face representing this malady since it can also affect mood causing depression and anxiety, impair memory, interfere with sleep, disrupt bowel and bladder function, as well as cause loss of smell.
Although, at present there is no blood test to make diagnosis a skilled movement disorder specialist (MDS) can make diagnosis confidentially 95 % of the time.
Parkinson’s disease can affect all walks of life’s and all socioeconomic status. There is no known cause for the disease in the majority of the patients hence the term idiopathic PD although about 10% do have a genetic abnormality. Some risk factors for disease development include age over 55, gender (slightly more men in older populations), race (Hispanics have twice as much risk as whites in developing PD), exposure to pesticides, early hysterectomy and family history of PD and tremors.
Therefore, anyone experiencing difficulty with several of these areas such as trouble walking, balance problems, tremors, trouble writing particularly exhibiting small handwriting, having stiffness or slowness of muscle movement, drooling, trouble swallowing, constipation, muscle pain, muscle cramping, frequent urination, trouble seeing (depth perception problems especially at night), loss of smell, poor sleep could be experiencing Parkinson’s disease and should seek the advice of a neurologist/MDS.
Recognizing some of the early features of Parkinson’s disease is not only crucial but necessary to the overall improvement of quality of life by prolonging independence and productivity in society in those afflicted with this disease; but early treatment can also delay hospitalization and nursing home admittance.
With the advent of new treatment modalities which include new medications such as dopa agonists, surgical procedures like deep brain stimulation (DBS), as well as non-conventional therapies such as dance and art therapy quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease has improved significantly in the past two decades. In addition to these new modalities Sinemet (levodopa/carbidopa) still remains the gold standard of treatment of PD.
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