People who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD) often experience a range of symptoms that effect motor skills, speech and cognitive skills. This disease is classified as a degenerative disease that impacts the Central Nervous System or CNS. Often the cause of Parkinson’s disease is not obvious and when that is the case it is referred to as being Idiopathic. For some cases of the disease the onset can be attributed to exposure to toxins, head injuries, or genetic mutations (National Parkinson’s Foundation). PD is a result of lowered levels of Dopamine in the brain due to the death of cells that are responsible for its production. This disease is movement disorder because of its effects on motion. An estimated 60,000 cases of Parkinson’s are reported annually in the US.
Some symptoms of Parkinson’s are shaking or tremor, disrupted balance, erratic movement, slow movements rigidity, shuffling walk, speech difficulties, cognitive difficulties, and frequently depression. Parkinson’s appears to affect men and women equally across nationalities. Currently there is no single simple test to detect PD. Patients often receive blood tests and tests such as MRIs to eliminate other possible neurological disorders. Patients are often referred to neurologists. PET scans show reduced activity in the area of the brain called the basal ganglia. Diagnosis can be problematic because of the lack of tests available and also because symptoms initially can mimic normal age related problems. Physicians and neurologists base the diagnosis on many factors in the patient’s history and they look for symptoms such as tremor and a shuffling gait.
There are treatment options available for patients with Parkinson’s Disease that include
medications that help regulate Dopamine production such a L-dopa, surgery exercise and
nutritional intervention, physical therapy, speech therapy and family and individual
counseling. There have been many famous people who have suffered from Parkinson’s disease such as actor Michael J. Fox who has set up a foundation to find treatments and cures for the disease. Promising research is being conducted to find a cure for PD as well as to find safe effective treatments such as gene therapy and stem cell research. One day this research may yield a cure for Parkinson’s disease.