Understanding Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that’s usually found in patients of 60 years or older, although Early Onset Parkinson’s is also possible for younger patients. Parkinson’s disease breaks down the patient’s motor skills, causing a significant reduction or loss of ability to perform everyday actions while also suffering from tremors (shaking), stiffening and tension of the body, loss of balance, and depression.


What Causes Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease results from the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Once these cells have progressively died away, there is less dopamine being produced, leading to symptoms such as Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, responsible for transmitting messages between neurons (nerve cells) of the brain. Dopamine is produced in a few different regions of the brain, and each region is responsible for producing the dopamine that’s applicable to its function. In the case of Parkinson’s disease, the neurons found in the Substantia Nigra region begin to die. Dopamine of this region is responsible for regulating motor skills, sleep, mood, learning, memory, and much more. This decrease in dopamine and eventual depletion is what leads to the several stages of Parkinson’s disease, where the patient begins to gradually lose the function until they eventually become completely unable to perform daily activities without help.


Exactly what causes the death of these neurons is not yet really known, but researchers believe it may be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Genetically speaking, there is a small chance that the dopamine producers being to die off at a certain age due to a family history or genetic deficiency. However, in the case of environmental factors, researchers have found that certain toxins may hasten the death of dopamine-producing neurons. These toxins may include pesticides, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals, most of which are present in most of our environments.

 

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease relies on a history of examinations from experts. There will be a number of techniques combining traditional assessments like blood tests, MRI scans, flourodopa PET brain scan and many technologies. This complete evaluation is necessary not only to gain a clear understanding of the patient’s complete health status, but also to rule out any other possible causes of Parkinson’s-like symptoms that may actually indicate another condition.

 

After the Diagnosis

For many people, receiving a diagnosis of any chronic and life-threatening condition is an extremely difficult and stressful time. It can be hard to fully engage in your daily life, and start to withdraw into yourself or pull away from family or society. However, one of the best things we can do for ourselves when we receive such daunting news is to lean into the support systems that will help us get through the initial shock and arrive at a positive outlook. Some things we can do to cope include:


1. Find a support group or a therapist who can help you to freely share your thoughts and concerns about the diagnosis. It’s important to have a healthy and supportive outlet where you can express your feelings.


2. Resolve to live your life as normally as possible, engaging in your usual activities and making plans for the future as you would normally do.


3. Exercise regularly, and take up new activities that you’ve been meaning to try. Every day, try to find time to do some walking, Tai Chi, yoga, swimming, or anything that inspires you to have some quiet time while releasing some energy.


4. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, making sure to get enough fiber and the other nutrients you need to keep your body healthy and vibrant.

 

Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but there is a great deal of research going into changing this reality. Until such a time as a cure is found, an important aim of treatment is to increase the patient’s quality of life while slowing down the disease’s progression. These two things are achieved not just through medication or other means, but also through the actions the patient takes in their daily life. This is why the points we mentioned above (After the Diagnosis) are so important.


1. Medication: there are currently many medications which aim to replace dopamine levels in the brain, as well as improve the efficiency of dopamine receptors. In the early stages of Parkinson’s, it is easy to adjust medication to fit the treatment goals. However, as the disease progresses, the patient will receive more medication that must be taken more often. In the late stages of the disease, other advanced treatment may be necessary.


2. Advanced treatment: currently, a surgical procedure that is commonly performed is known as Deep Brain Stimulation, where doctors insert a device beneath the skin of the collarbone in order to stimulate the deep part of the brain which produces dopamine. There are also new treatments which include subcutaneous infusion of Apomorphine and intrajejunal duodopa infusion over a period of many hours.


The field of Parkinson’s and its treatment continue to grow and advance, with new research leading specialists in new directions and considering new options. The best resource for determining the best treatment option for you is your own doctor, who will be able to meet with you regularly and determine which treatment option is right for your stage, progression, and future plans.


The Neuroscience Center at Bumrungrad International Hospital is home to the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic , which offers a full range of diagnosis and treatment programs for patients who may be at risk for or have already developed Parkinson’s disease. This highly specialized unit is your first step to getting ahead of Parkinson’s, so that you can put your focus back where it belongs – pursuing a healthy future.


Make an appointment today to consult with one of the specialists, and get started on your journey to understanding and getting ahead of Parkinson’s.
 

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Posted by Bumrungrad International