Parkinson’s Education & Treatment
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder that is caused by degeneration of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which controls movement. These nerve cells die or become impaired, losing the ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine.
Parkinson’s produces many common symptoms, including: tremor; muscle rigidity or stiffness of the limbs; gradual loss of spontaneous movement, often leading to decreased mental skill or reaction time, voice changes, or decreased facial expression; gradual loss of automatic movement, often leading to decreased blinking, decreased frequency of swallowing, and drooling; a stooped, flexed posture, with bending at the elbows, knees and hips; an unsteady walk or balance; and depression or dementia
Why Parkinson’s disease occurs and how the neurons become impaired is not known. However, there is increasing evidence that Parkinson’s disease may be inherited (passed on genetically from family members).
There is considerable controversy surrounding the possibility of a genetic cause of Parkinson’s disease. In a small number of families, specific genetic abnormalities leading to the illness have been identified. However, the vast majority of people with Parkinson’s disease do not have one of these identified genetic abnormalities. It is probable that in people who develop Parkinson’s disease early in life (young-onset Parkinson’s disease) there is a genetic component. Because we don’t understand very much at this point about how Parkinson’s disease is inherited, the implications for children of people with Parkinson’s disease are unclear.
There is also some evidence that certain toxins in the environment may cause Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have suggested that external or internal toxins may selectively destroy the dopaminergic neurons, causing Parkinson’s disease.
Also, it is believed that oxidative stress can cause Parkinson’s disease. Oxidation is a process in which free radicals (unstable molecules lacking one electron), in an attempt to replace the missing electron, react with other molecules (such as iron). Free radicals are normally formed in the brain and body, but usually the brain and body have mechanisms to get rid of free radicals. In people with Parkinson’s disease, the mechanisms may not be effective or they may produce too many free radicals. It is also possible that environmental toxins may contribute to abnormal free radical formation and lead to Parkinson’s disease. Oxidation is thought to cause damage to tissues, including neurons. In most cases, antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage.
Most Parkinson’s patients are treated with medications to relieve the symptoms of the disease. Some common medications used are dopamine precursors, dopamine agonists, and anticholinergics. Surgery is considered when medications have proven ineffective. DBS of the subthalamic nucleus or globus pallidus can be effective in treating all of the primary motor features of Parkinson’s and sometimes allows for significant decreases in medication doses. Thalamotomy can help stop tremor by placing a small lesion in a specific nucleus of the thalamus.
Unfortunately as there is no known cause for the disease we do not have a cure yet.