What are the common signs of Parkinson's Disease?
Early symptoms of this disease are subtle and occur gradually. These include:
* Involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body
* Slow movement
* Stiff muscles
There are a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms that are often reported. The most common include:
* Anxiety and depression
* Difficulty sleeping
* Smaller handwriting
* Bowel and bladder problems
* Loss of smell
* Balance problems
* Memory problems
Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Even if people do, they won't necessarily experience the symptoms in quite the same order or at the same intensity.
What are the types and stages of Parkinson's Disease?
There are two main types of Parkinson's Disease: Idiopathic and secondary Parkinsonism. Idiopathic tends to have no known causes, whereas secondary may be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from medications to head trauma. There are variations and subtypes under these two types.
The progression of Parkinson's disease can vary from person to person, and not all individuals will experience all stages. Currently, the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) is a rating tool used to gauge the severity and progression of Parkinson's disease. It consists of six segments and is used for monitoring the response to medications.
What are the main causes of Parkinson's Disease?
It is currently not known as to why the loss of nerve cells associated with Parkinson's disease occurs. Many researchers now believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible.
Parkinson's Disease is occasionally inherited, it can be the result of faulty genes being passed to a child by their parents. It is rare for the disease to be inherited in this way.
There is a possibility that pesticides and herbicides used in farming as well as traffic and industrial pollution may contribute to the cause.
How do you diagnose Parkinson's Disease?
It can take months or years before a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is made. This is because it mimics other conditions, such as essential tremor. Also, at present, there are no definitive tests. A Neurologist is often the person who will make the diagnosis. They will often take a detailed history and examine you physically. You may find it helpful to track your symptoms in a diary to discuss this at your consultation.
After the appointment with the Neurologist, it may be suggested that you trial medication. If these medications improve your symptoms, a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease may be confirmed. It may also be suggested that you have a scan to help make a diagnosis. It is worth noting that scans alone can't make a definite diagnosis of Parkinson's.
It is anticipated that research into this area will allow faster and easier diagnostics of Parkinson's Disease in the future.
What is the outlook?
It can be difficult to accurately predict the progression. As the disease progresses, people often need to work alongside their doctor to adjust medication dosages. Support may also be required from different health professionals along the way, such as Speech and language therapists for swallowing problems.
What advise would you give to loved ones?
* Attend healthcare appointments and gently prompt on the information taught in these appointments, if appropriate. For example, if cues are taught for freezing of gait, it may be helpful to prompt someone when they freeze
* Be flexible, symptoms can vary throughout the day and week on week
* People with Parkinson's need their medication on time every time, if you notice medications are missed, find ways help them get them on time
* Adapt and work as a team to help support someone maintain their independence, for as long as possible, and achieve their goals