Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that affects the nervous system and movement.
The disease occurs when nerve cells (or neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. These neurons produce a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it leads to abnormal activity in the brain.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person with early signs often going unnoticed before they begin to progress. Symptoms often start on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include:
- Tremors. Shaking that begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. Your hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
- Slowed movement. Over time, Parkinson’s disease may make simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter or you may drag your feet.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
- Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have difficulty balancing.
- Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
- Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Speech may also become monotone.
- Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.
Parkinson’s disease can also lead to other complications, including difficulty remembering or concentrating, emotional changes and depression, difficulty chewing and swallowing, sleep disorders and fatigue, constipation, and bladder control issues.
The most common risk factors for Parkinson’s disease are:
- Age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
- Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease.
- Gender. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
- Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Because the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, proven ways to prevent the disease also remain a mystery. Some research has shown that regular aerobic exercise might reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
While there is still no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are treatments that can slow down the progression and alleviate the symptoms of the condition. Most treatments involve the use of medications that increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Unfortunately, the effects of these drugs usually wear off over time. There are also surgical options designed to stimulate brain function. This type of procedure has led to dramatic improvements in many patients with Parkinson’s disease.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms or Parkinson’s disease, see your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, you can make an appointment at Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling 718-670-5486.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.