Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that affects more than 10 million people globally. The disease is progressive that develops and becomes worse over time.
Parkinson’s disease appears when brain lost a special group of cells called dopaminergic neurons. These cells produced dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for movement.
The disease is named after an English surgeon James Parkinson, who for the first time had clearly documented its medical description in 1817.
While the exact cause of the disease is unknown, most researchers believe that environment and genetics both play a role in its onset. It has now been confirmed that 15% of the disease cases have a clear genetic origin.
Age is a major risk factor of Parkinson’s disease development. It is believed to be the disease of old-age people, over the age of 60. However, due to an increase in the number of people diagnosed at a young age, it is now realized that Parkinson’s disease can also occur in people younger than 40 years of age.
At first, some abnormal changes appear in the brain that begins to damage parts of the brain responsible for body movements. These changes are gradual and the effect is limited to the brain only.
After 15-20 years, the damage reaches the level where it begins to affect body normal movements. This is the early stage where typical symptoms of the disease start to develop. These include tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and abnormal gait while walking. By the time these classical symptoms appear, the brain already lost 70% of its Dopaminergic neurons.
After 10 years of diagnosis, the symptoms become more noticeable that is usually accompanied by other problems like constipation, insomnia, low blood pressure, and abnormal eating behavior. This is called the mid-stage of the disease.
When the disease has passed 20 years, it reaches its advanced stage. At this stage, the symptoms become very severe and most often the patient needs assistance for mobility.
Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease is not curable. However, disease symptoms can be managed with medication. There have been developed new drugs that not only help to treat the symptoms but also enormously prolong the life expectancy and improve the overall quality of life. These drugs are specifically designed to restore the Dopamine levels in the brain. The most commonly used drugs for Parkinson’s disease include Sinemet, Rytary, Duopa, Entacapone, Tolcapone, and Opicapone, and Safinamide.
Deep brain stimulation is a newly introduced treatment approach that is very effective for treating tremor in Parkinson’s disease. In this approach, parts of the brain responsible for movement functions are reawakened by using low electric current. It is usually recommended for patients who are at their late stage of the disease or those whose conditions are not adequately controlled with medication.
Medication can certainly reduce complications, but it’s not the only way to deal with Parkinson’s disease. There are other approaches that need to be considered in order to live much better with this progressive disease. Here are some of them:
Educating yourself about the disease
The more you understand the disease the more it will be easy for you to cope with it. There are plenty of organizations available that provide information and research on Parkinson’s. These organizations (like Parkinson’s disease foundation, European Parkinson’s disease association, Partners in Parkinson’s, and Michael J. Fox Foundation) may also provide advocacy for the disease. Just search on the internet and you’ll likely find many of them.
Be active socially
Research has shown that social interaction helps patients to boost their feelings of well-being and decrease feelings of depression.
Therefore, keep yourself busy and participate in gatherings with family and friends as much as you can. The more you engage yourself socially, the more you will feel normal.
Do regular exercise
Doing regular exercise has positive effects on mobility, posture, gait, and balance. In addition, it also improves quality of life. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that exercise is medicine for Parkinson’s disease.
Any form of aerobic exercise is beneficial: walking, jogging, stretching, cycling, and swimming are easy and best for you. These kinds of exercises will help to improve motor symptoms, walking speed, balance, and strength. Plus, it will reduce the signs of depression and fatigue.
Follow a healthy diet plan
When it comes to diet, there is no restrict rule. However, you need to make sure to consume enough calories and nutrients. Eating well will maintain your body strength and weight. Additionally, it will help you to fight constipation, which is a common problem in Parkinson’s patients.
- Eat a variety of foods to get enough proteins, vitamins, carbs, and fibers.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- Consume foods with a low level of saturated fats and cholesterol.
- Avoid eating food containing a high amount of sugar or salt.
- Drinking alcohol has shown to be protective, but excessive use can be harmful. Therefore, try to avoid or use it moderately.
It may not necessary in the early stage. However, as the disease progresses you may come across some problems impacting on your lifestyle or affecting your family relationship and therefore it may be helpful to talk to a trained counsellor.
Use assistive devices for self-care tasks
Over time, Parkinson’s can make your self-care tasks difficult and so you should get ready for that. Using assistive devices can help you to perform these tasks easily. There are many products available on the market that are specially designed for Parkinson’s patients. Some of the most effective products that you may need include tremor spoon, weighted utensils and pens, laser shoes, and walking stick.