Parkinson’s Disease, or commonly referred to as Parkinson’s, is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Often symptoms begin gradually on one side of the body such as a barely noticeable tremor in a hand. As the disease progresses it will worsen over time and the patient may begin to experience difficulty walking or develop speech problems, mental problems, behavioral problems, emotional changes, and trouble with memory.
Parkinson’s disease is thought to occur when nerve cells known as neurons in the brain begin to gradually die resulting in lower levels of dopamine which can lead to abnormal brain activity and the development of Parkinson’s disease-associated symptoms. The cause for this is unknown, but there are several factors that doctors do believe play an important role such as genetics and environmental stressors.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
The four main symptoms that we associate with Parkinson’s include:
- Tremors in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Stiffness in the limbs
- Decrease in movement
- Impaired balance or coordination
Other symptoms that people with Parkinson’s commonly experience but are not limited to:
- Cognitive difficulties such as thinking and memory function
- Loss of automatic body movements
- Sudden drops in blood pressure
- Changes in speech and handwriting
- Mood changes
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing or eating
- Trouble discerning smells or a loss of smelling sensation
- Sleep disorders
- Bladder problems or constipation
- Sexual dysfunction
There is no specific test to diagnose a person with Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor and a neurologist will diagnose you based on medication history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a thorough physical and neurological examination. A series of lab tests will be done to rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s, so treatments such as medication, surgery, and other therapies are prescribed to offer relief for its symptoms.
Medication can be prescribed to help manage your difficulties with walking, body movement and tremors. Other medications may also be prescribed to help increase levels of dopamine within the brain to reduce patient symptoms.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery may also be recommended for some patients who may not respond well to medication or other options. DBS is a surgical procedure that implants electrodes into part of the brain and connects them to an electrical device implanted into the chest. Together these devices help to stimulate the brain and help reduce many of the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Alternative medicines or therapies can also prove successful in the management of Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapy can improve muscle movement while speech therapy can help to treat vocal symptoms.
Prevention of the disease is rather difficult because we do not know the direct cause. However, there are precautions many can take to reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s such as keeping a healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing environmental stressors as these can help to strengthen muscle function and improve balance.
Living with any chronic illness can be difficult and it is normal to feel angry, depressed, frustrated and discouraged at times. For those who struggle with Parkinson’s disease, stress and anxiety can cause you to feel overwhelmed, underprepared, or even overstimulated.
We recommend attempting to reduce stressors in your life as these psychological complications are important to managing your health. Finding balance in your body and mind can help you to cope not only with daily stress but also with your diagnosis and life with Parkinson’s disease. Some tips for keeping a positive mindset:
- Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time for the tasks you set forth to accomplish.
- Minimize exposure to negative people or activities that may cause you to stress. Instead, try to keep a positive outlook and attitude. Stay involved and socialize often with people who uplift you.
- Stay passionate about hobbies you value. Even if Parkinson’s has taken something from you, find something new that interests you and keep an open mind while remaining resilient.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, massage, and tai chi.
Another great comfort we find for those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s joining a support group. Though friends and family are great pillars of support, it is important to be surrounded by those who understand first hand the hardships that you may face with Parkinson’s.
For more information on Parkinson’s Disease and how we can offer our assistance, please contact Transform Your Health, PLLC today.