Sunday, July 27, 2014

Have you ever seen an older person that has a noticeable tremor in their hand?

It is possible that that tremor you saw in their hand is actually Parkinson’s disease; this was the first sign that I saw when my grandma was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that worsens over time. Parkinson’s disease is the result of a lack of dopamine; where the dopamine-generating cells in the midbrain die. As a kid I did not know what the disease was, but I always heard my parents and other family members talking about it. As I got older I began to understand the severity of Parkinson’s disease and why my parents and family members had talked about it with such concern.  

      The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, however majority of cases occur in patients after the age of 60. While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, it is believed that exposure to certain toxins, pesticides and other environmental factors can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Other risk factors include gender and Heredity; Males are more likely than females to get Parkinson’s disease and even though Parkinson’s disease is not hereditary, having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases your chances of developing the disease. And since my grandma has Parkinson’s disease, my family and I have are supposed to have an annual checkup as a precaution to make sure that we are not developing Parkinson’s disease.

      It is hard to diagnose Parkinson’s disease because there are no lab tests that clearly identify the disease; therefore doctors rely on medical history, a neurological examination and ruling out other disorders that cause similar disorders. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is only management to slow down the progression of the disease; options include medication, exercise, physical therapy, massage therapy and eating healthy. Preventive measures against Parkinson’s disease, in addition to avoiding toxins and pesticides, include caffeine consumption and tobacco use. Studies show that the higher the amount of caffeine that you consume the less likely you are to develop Parkinson’s disease. Tobacco use can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by as much as 30%, as a result of the nicotine stimulating dopamine.

      Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs vary from person to person however the common ones are: Tremors, Slowed Movement, Stiff Muscles which limit your range of motion, Impaired posture and balance, Loss of Automatic Movements such as blinking, Speech Changes such as slurring, and Writing Changes. Parkinson’s disease often times leads to Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Additional problems that usually accompany Parkinson’s disease include: Depression and other emotional changes such as anxiety, Problems Sleeping as well as other Sleep Disorders, Bladder problems, Constipation, Blood Pressure changes, Smell dysfunction, Fatigue and Sexual Dysfunction.  

      In my grandma’s case the doctors believed she developed the disease as a result of coming into contact with toxins in the factory she owned. And while Parkinson’s disease usually progresses relatively fast; however thanks to medicine to slow down the progression my grandma stayed relatively unaffected for around twelve years and then she started to develop more severe symptoms as well as other problems such as dementia. Research is continually underway to help us better understand Parkinson’s disease and hopefully in the near future they will develop a cure.


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