A lot of people know all about Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia, but fewer know about Parkinson’s. On top is this, our understanding of Parkinson’s is changing, as are the treatments, so it is important to keep up, to keep ahead.
What is Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition. This means that Parkinson’s affects the brain, and that symptoms will worsen over time. People with Parkinson’s don’t produce enough dopamine. This is because some the nerve cells which produce this neurotransmitter have died.
Commonly, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear after middle age. Individuals are usually diagnosed in their 50s and 60s. However, in some rare cases, Parkinson’s can affect much younger individuals.
Identifying the symptoms
The symptoms of Parkinson’s, and the way in which the disease progresses, will differ from person to person. People may experience symptoms differently, or in a different order. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are often divided into two types: motor (symptoms which affect movement) and non-motor (symptoms affecting other parts of the body).
Your client’s GP will be able to recommend medications to alleviate the various symptoms of this disease. Many people with Parkinson’s are prescribed Levodopa, a drug which helps replenish the brain’s dopamine levels. Levodopa can considerably improve symptoms such as stiffness and slowness of movement, but like any medication, can have moderate-to-severe side effects in some individuals.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Slowness of movement
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Dental health issues
- Difficulties with eating, swallowing or saliva control
- Eye problems
- Dizziness or falls
- Low blood pressure
- Problems with temperature regulation (feeling very cold)
- Muscle cramps or dystonia
- Restless legs
- Foot or ankle stiffness
- Oily or flaky skin
- Excessing sweating
- Sleep problems
- Difficulties with speech or communication
- Memory problems
- Loss of sense of smell
As Parkinson’s is a progressive illness, its severity is described in stages. Clients with first stage Parkinson’s may only have mild symptoms, and won’t experience much disruption to their everyday life. Clients with fifth stage Parkinson’s will be close to incapacitated and will require care and assistance for all basic tasks.
As Parkinson’s progresses, it can give rise to life-threatening complications. Possible complications include:
- Fractures from falls
- Choking, due to problems with swallowing
- Pneumonia, and other pulmonary conditions
Pneumonia is a serious breathing condition, characterised by a swelling or infection of the lungs, or enlarged airways. Pneumonia is commonly caused by food, saliva, vomit or other liquids being breathed into the lungs or airways, rather than being swallowed into the oesophagus and stomach.
Finding a cure
The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown, but research suggests that the onset of the disease is related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Though there isn’t a known cure for Parkinson’s, many organisations continue to search for effective modes of treatment, helped by the generous funding of charities and trusts.
For information on how you can help scientists find a cure, visit: www.cureparkinsons.org.uk
The Michael J Fox Foundation, established in America, is also working to find a cure for Parkinson’s. Diagnosed at the age of just 29, celebrity film star Michael J Fox continued working with Parkinson’s disease for more than 10 years before finally retiring.
For more on the work being done by the foundation, visit: www.michaeljfox.org/understanding-parkinsons/living-with-pd.html
Scottish comedian Billy Connolly also lives with Parkinson’s disease. Though diagnosed in 2013, he had been living with Parkinson’s for many years, but the symptoms were so mild that the disease went undiagnosed.
For more on Billy Connolly’s experience with Parkinson’s, visit:
For more information and guidance on Parkinson’s disease, take a look at the following links: