Parkinson disease (PD, Parkinson Syndrome, Atypical Parkinson, or Parkinsonism or, simply, Parkinson) is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease that is the most common form of Parkinsonism, a group of motor system disorders.
For some time it was incorrectly believed that Parkinson disease disappeared after the introduction of levodopa (L-dopa) in the 1960s. In fact, about 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson disease each year, with more than half a million Americans affected at any one time. Further, more people suffer from Parkinson disease than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis combined.
Parkinson disease is chronic (persists over a long period of time), and progressive (symptoms grow worse over time).
Although the disease may appear in younger patients (even teenagers), it usually affects people in late middle age. The disease affects men and women in almost equal numbers. It is not contagious, nor is it likely passed on from generation to generation.
The specific cause of PD is unknown. However, medical experts believe the symptoms are related to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by brain-cell death.
Patients are often classified as having primary Parkinsonism or idiopathic Parkinson disease. (Idiopathic is the term for a disorder for which no cause has yet been identified). In primary Parkinsonism, either the cause is known or suspected, or the disorder occurs as a secondary effect of another primary neurological disorder that may have both primary and secondary symptoms of Parkinson disease. These disorders, described as Parkinson Syndrome, Atypical Parkinson, or, simply, Parkinsonism, may include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of Parkinson disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of Parkinson disease vary from patient to patient. The symptoms may appear slowly and in no particular order. Early symptoms may be subtle and may progress over many years before reaching a point where they interfere with normal daily activities. These often include the following:
As the disease progresses, walking may become affected, causing the patient to stop in mid-stride or “freeze” in place, and maybe even fall over. Patients also may begin walking with a series of quick, small steps as if hurrying forward to keep balance, a practice known as festination.
The symptoms of Parkinson disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Making an accurate diagnosis in the early stages of Parkinson disease can be difficult, and may require observation of the patient for some time until it is apparent that the tremor is consistently present and is joined by one or more of the other classic symptoms.
Currently, there are no specific tests for diagnosing PD, although there are several methods for evaluating its presence, including the following:
Specific treatment for a Parkinson disease will be determined by your physician based on:
With today’s medicine, we have yet to find a cure for Parkinson disease. However, based upon the severity of the symptoms and medical profile, the physician will establish an appropriate treatment protocol. Treatment for Parkinson disease may include the following:
Once the diagnosis of PD has been made, the next decision is whether a patient should receive medication, which depends on the following:
No two patients react the same way to a given drugs. Therefore, it takes time and patience to find an appropriate medication and dosage to alleviate symptoms.
Based on the severity of the condition and the medical profile, the physician may recommend surgery as one treatment option for Parkinson disease.
There are several types of surgery that may be performed that can help patients with Parkinson disease. Most of the treatments are aimed at helping the tremor or rigidity that comes with the disease. In some patients, surgery may decrease the amount of medication that is needed to control the symptoms of Parkinson disease, including the following:
There are three types of surgeries that may be performed for Parkinson disease, including the following:
It is important to remember that surgery may help with symptoms of Parkinson disease, but does not cure the disease or stop the progression of the disease.
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