Parkinson’s Disease

By April 23, 2021Health Tips
Parkinson’s a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects movement.  People often think of tremors when they think of Parkinson’s disease, as this can be the most noticeable symptom in the early stages.  The tremor is just a part of this disorder though.  Today we will talk about the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and the risk factors for developing it.
What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s DiseaseEarly symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are usually mild and may even go unnoticed.  The symptoms often start on one side of the body but will progress to affect both sides.  Although the signs and symptoms can be different for everyone, here are the common symptoms:
  • Tremor – Shaking or trembling in the fingers, hand, or foot.  Rubbing of the thumb and forefinger back and forth (called a “pill-rolling” tremor) is common.  This usually happens at rest.
  • Slowed movements – Movements become slower, making it difficult to complete simple tasks.
  • Trouble initiating movement – Overcoming inertia to start movement is difficult.  Getting up from a chair, for instance, can be very challenging.  Feet may feel stuck to the floor.
  • Muscle stiffness – This can happen in any part of the body.  Stiff muscles may be painful or limit your range of motion.  Sometimes stiffness worsens briefly and erratically to a severe degree, called “freezing”.  You may just stop moving while walking, even though you are trying to walk.
  • Change in posture – Posture becomes stooped.
  • Impaired balance – This is linked to brain changes that happen in PD.  Balance becomes less automatic and requires attention and thought.
  • Loss of automatic movements – Decreased arm swing when you walk, decreased smiling when you are happy, or decreased blinking are common in PD.
  • Changes in speech – Speech becomes softer and more monotone.  Pauses during speech are common, which may be mixed with faster speech.  Slurred speech can also occur.
  • Changes in writing – Writing may be more difficult and handwriting often becomes smaller.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
This is a difficult question to answer.  We do understand a lot of what is happening in the brain and nervous system, which results in the symptoms we recognize, but the actual cause of those nervous system changes is not fully understood.
Just what is happening in the nervous system in PD?
Certain nerve cells in the brain produce a chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine acts as a messenger in the brain, helping nerve cells to communicate with one another.  In PD, these nerve cells gradually break down or die.  This causes the levels of dopamine to decrease, which in turn causes miscommunication between the remaining brain cells.  This leads to abnormal brain activity, causing impaired movement and the other symptoms of PD.
What are the risk factors for PD?
  • • Age – Although young adults can develop PD, it ordinarily begins in middle or late life, with the average age of developing PD around age 60.
  • • Heredity – Having a close relative with PD increases your risk, but the risk is still small unless you have many relatives in your family with PD.
  • • Sex – Men are more likely to develop PD than women.
  • • Exposure to toxins – Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may increase your risk of PD, but the risk appears relatively small.
Next week we will talk more about the complications of PD and how it is treated.
If you have any questions about Parkinson’s Disease, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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