An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of Parkinson disease.
What is Parkinson Disease?
Parkinson disease is a neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and balance. Parkinson disease most commonly affects people ages 55 to 75 years, but it can also develop in younger people. The disease is progressive, with symptoms becoming more severe over time.
Symptoms of Parkinson Disease
Parkinson disease may be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. The disease is generally diagnosed on the basis of symptoms, which may include:
- Tremors (shaking) in the hands, arms, legs, and face
- Slowness of movement, especially when initiating motion
- Muscle rigidity
- Difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Digestive problems
- Speech problems
- Depression and difficulties with memory and thought processes
There is no cure for Parkinson disease. Treatments focus on controlling symptoms and improving quality of life.
- Lifestyle Changes. Good nutrition, regular exercise, and stress management can make living with Parkinson easier.
- Rehabilitation Therapy. Physical therapy is an important part of Parkinson treatment. Speech and occupational therapy are also helpful. Rehabilitation can help improve balance, mobility, speech, and functional abilities.
- Medications. Because Parkinson disease symptoms are due to a deficiency of the brain chemical dopamine, the main drug treatments help increase dopamine levels in the brain. Levodopa, usually combined with carbidopa, is the standard drug treatment. Other types of medication may also be used. Unfortunately, many of these drugs can cause side effects and lose effectiveness over time.
- Surgery. In some cases of advanced-stage Parkinson disease, surgery may help to control motor problems. Deep brain stimulation is currently the preferred surgical method.
- Deep brain stimulation may be appropriate for patients with earlier stage Parkinson. This surgical approach is currently recommended for select patients with advanced Parkinson.
- Low-intensity treadmill exercise -- walking on a treadmill at a slow, comfortable speed -- helps improve gait speed as well as cardiovascular fitness. Stretching and resistance exercises are helpful for improving muscle strength.
- Physical therapy can help provide short-term benefits for patients with Parkinson. The researchers used a variety of techniques (hands-on exercises, treadmill training, dance, tai chi) to evaluate physical therapy's effects on walking speed, mobility, balance, and falls.