PARKINSON’S disease is a condition where parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.
The brain disorder affects around one in 500 people but what triggers the disease and how is it treated?
What is Parkinson’s disease and what are the symptoms?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition where parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.
It’s thought that approximately one in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Most people who start to develop symptoms are over 50, but one in 20 with the condition first experience symptoms under 40.
It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra.
This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain – dopamine is key to regulating the movement of the body.
Therefore a reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
Men have a slightly higher risk of getting Parkinson’s than women.
According to the NHS, symptoms can include:
- involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremors)
- slow movement
- stiff and inflexible muscles
- depression and anxiety
- balance problems
- loss of sense of smell
- problems sleeping
- memory problems
How is Parkinson’s treated and is it hereditary?
Parkinson’s is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain which then leads to a reduction in dopamine.
Dopamine is vital for regulating movement in the body – so a reduction is responsible for many of the symptoms experienced in those with Parkinson’s.
It is unclear what causes the loss of nerve cells – but many experts think that both genetic and environmental factors are to blame.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s – but there are treatments available to ease the main symptoms and maintain quality of life.
- supportive treatments – such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy
- in some cases, brain surgery
As the condition progresses, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can get worse.
This can make it increasingly difficult to carry out everyday activities without help.
Many people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability.
But some patients may not respond as well and can, in time, become more severely disabled.
Parkinson’s disease does not directly cause people to die, but the condition can place great strain on the body, and can make some people more vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections.
But with advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson’s disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.