According to statistics, over 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects the part of the brain which controls body movement, thereby inhibiting a person’s ability to engage in common physical activities. An area of the brain called the substantia nigra contains neurons which are involved in the production of dopamine and these neurons which are also referred to as dopaminergic neurons, are the primary focus of this disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition, and this basically means that its symptoms develop slowly and are often difficult to identify in the early stages. The diversity of the disease differs from one person to another and may affect the progression of symptoms.
Although the symptoms of the disease tend to develop in individuals who are 50 years old and above, recent diagnosis shows that it can also affect individuals below the age of 50. Parkinson’s disease diagnosed in younger persons is called Young or Early Onset Parkinson’s disease.
During the development of Parkinson’s, a significant amount of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra neurons are either lost or severely damaged. This is one factor which contributes to the inability of patients to experience symptoms early on in the course of the disease.
There are motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Motor symptoms generally affect the movement of the body.
One of the major motor symptoms of this disorder remains tremors. This rhythmic shaking often begins in the hands and as the disease progresses, soon affects the speech, movement, cognitive ability and even sleeping patterns of the affected individual. Other symptoms include;
- Gait problems
- Posture problems
Due to the fact that Parkinson’s is a movement disorder, its non-motor symptoms are often overlooked. These symptoms generally affect the physical and mental health of the individual. They include:
- Cognitive impairment
- Weight loss
- Behavioral disorders
- Constipation and gastrointestinal problems.
Contrary to popular belief, a tremor is not an identifiable symptom or proof of Parkinson’s disease as not all patients experience tremors. For a proper diagnosis, only a few and not all of these symptoms may be present.
Parkinson’s disease is often referred to as “Idiopathic” during diagnosis because its true cause remains unknown. However, scientists believe that the interaction of various environmental and genetic factors may be responsible for the development of the disease.
According to scientists and researchers, a small percentage of diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s disease can be linked to genetics. This effect is triggered by a defect in the LRRK2 which is frequently found in people of Jewish and North African descent.
Other factors such as exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals may also increase the risk of Parkinson’s. Due to the wide gap between the time of exposure and the period of diagnosis, it is often difficult to establish the connection between environmental factors and this degenerative disorder.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease which affects the brain and other significant organs in the body. Although it generally occurs in individuals above the age of 50, its development in younger persons is not uncommon. Although the cause of the disease is unknown, certain environmental and genetic factors may be responsible for its development.