Parkinson's Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a long-term degenerative disease of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system, and the symptoms generally come on slowly over time. With a diagnosis of such a life-changing medical condition, you may feel angry, afraid, sad, or worried about what lies ahead. MedikalNotes.com has compiled a list of possible frequently asked questions (FAQs) you may have.


To read about this condition in detail, see the overview, causes, features and diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease or see treatment modalities for Parkinson's Disease or see how to live with Parkinson's Disease. Below is a series of questions you may have and the answers we have put together.

What happens in Parkinson's Disease?

The symptoms and the course of Parkinson's disease can vary a great deal from person to person. There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. However, drugs, surgery, exercise, and lifestyle changes can relieve some symptoms of the disease.

Emotions may also affect symptoms. Anxiety, tension, and unhappiness may make symptoms worse. Relaxing usually reduces symptoms. Sometimes during stress, a person with Parkinson's disease has a "paradoxical outburst." This results in a short symptom-free period when the person may be able to move normally.

Treatment may help control symptoms during the early stages of Parkinson's disease and is usually started as soon as symptoms begin to affect a person's ability to work or do daily activities. For instance, a right-handed person with tremor only on the left side may not feel limited by the symptoms and may not feel the need to take drugs until symptoms get worse. A person who cannot do his or her job because of symptoms may want to begin treatment sooner than someone who does not work or whose symptoms do not affect his or her ability to work.
  • Symptoms of Parkinson's disease typically begin appearing between the ages 50 and 60. They develop slowly and often go unnoticed by family, friends, and even the person who has them.
  • A small number of people have symptoms on only one side of the body that never progress to the other side.
Drugs can control symptoms to some extent, but as the disease progresses, drugs may become less effective. Parkinson's disease also can cause a variety of complications as it advances.

What is the cause of Parkinson's Disease?

Low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) involved in controlling movement, cause symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The shortage of this brain chemical occurs when nerve cells in a part of the brain (substantia nigra) that produces dopamine fail and deteriorate. The exact cause of this deterioration is not known.

The links between Parkinson's disease and factors such as genetics, aging, toxins in the environment, and free radicals are all under investigation. Although these studies are beginning to provide some answers, experts do not know the exact cause of the disease.

Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is a genetic cause of Parkinson's disease. Only a small percentage of people with Parkinson's disease have a parent, brother, or sister who has the disease; however, abnormal genes do seem to be a factor in a few families where early-onset Parkinson's disease is common.

What increases my risk for Parkinson's Disease?

Risk factors for Parkinson's disease are difficult to identify because the cause of the disease is unknown. Advancing age is the only known risk factor for typical Parkinson's disease (not including early-onset Parkinson's). Most instances of Parkinson's disease occur after age 50, although the illness does occur in people between the ages of 30 and 50, or in rare cases at a younger age.

A very small number of people with Parkinson's have a close relative who also has the disease, but it does not appear that a family history of typical Parkinson's disease significantly increases your risk of developing the disease. Having a family history of the disease is a more significant risk factor in cases of early-onset Parkinson's disease, but this form of the disease is not common.

Some research suggests that long-term exposure to certain environmental factors such as pesticides, chemicals, or well water may increase a person's risk of developing Parkinson's disease, but this has not been proven.

There are many other causes of parkinsonism, which is a group of symptoms that includes tremor, muscle stiffness, slow movement, and unsteady walking. Parkinsonism mimics Parkinson's disease, but in fact is not Parkinson's disease.

How do I prevent Parkinson's Disease?

There is no known way to prevent Parkinson's disease.

Research has shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, fish, and omega-3 rich oils (sometimes known as the Mediterranean diet) and who eat less red meat and dairy may have some protection against Parkinson's disease. But the reason for this is still not quite clear.



Reference:
1). NHS Choices: Parkinson's disease. Accessed 01.07.2010. Available here: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Parkinsons-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx
2). US Library of Medicine (PubMed Health). Parkinson's: Overview. Accessed 12.09.2017. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0076679/
3). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parkinson's Disease. Accessed 13.09.2017. Available here: https://www.report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=109

Article first written 01/07/2010. Rewritten 12/09/2017

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