Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that afflicts more than one million people in the U.S., with over 60,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. It leads to progressive deterioration of motor function, and the disease progresses slowly in most people who develop it.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s requires a medical diagnosis, and the disease occurs mostly in people around 60 years old, but can also affect younger adults as well. It’s caused when a person’s brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine, this leaves patients with limited muscle control along with numerous side effects.
Doctors and scientists have found that Parkinson’s disease is idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause and that it arises sporadically. Scientists have discovered several genes that are associated in those who have developed Parkinson’s, and it may help lead to new therapies, and identify certain causes. Despite there being no definitive cause, there are a few factors that could increase your odds of developing Parkinson’s:
- Adults over 60 years of age
- Family history of Parkinson’s could increase risk
- Head trauma or illness
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides and herbicides
- Men are affected 1.5 to 2 times more often than women
Symptoms of Parkinson’s may reveal themselves gradually, and the first signs might be barely noticeable, however over time symptoms may progress and include:
- Tremors, usually a tremor starts in one hand
- Slow movement
- Stiffness and muscle rigidity
- Involuntary movements
- Loss of balance
- Amnesia, confusion in the evening
- Dementia – difficulty thinking and understanding
Traditional treatment for Parkinson’s included medication to help stop involuntary movements, reduce tremors and reduce muscle rigidity. Physical therapy also helped to manage symptoms and maintain muscle mass.