Named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who first wrote about the disease in 1817, Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease. It is a disease of the central nervous system of the body characterized by the degeneration of the same. Parkinson’s disease is a long term, progressive and chronic condition that gets worse over time. It primarily affects the dopamine secreting cells of the brain. About 53 million people have known to be affected by the disease globally with it causing 103,000 deaths globally. It typically is seen in the people over the age of 60 years. However, it may start in the people who are 40 years old or so. This is considered as the condition of an early onset. There is certain pattern seen in the gender prevalence of the condition with more males affected than the females.
No specific causes have been associated with the diseases up until now. Various factors like genetic, environmental (pollution in drinking water for example), etc. are said to be the risk factors for the disease. However, none of these associated factors have been proven to be causal. The difficulty arises as there is no specific diagnostic test to identify the condition. What makes the matter worse is that, it is very hard to identify the symptoms at its early stage. Parkinson does not take the life of an individual suddenly but the condition worsen over time and thus makes it very difficult for the people to live normal life. It more affects the quality of life than the duration itself. The life expectancy following the diagnosis is between 7 and 15 years. If taken care of and if the patients are engaged in therapies, physical exercises along with medications, then the patient can lead a normal life. There are measures to manage the condition to some extent but no cure has been developed as of yet.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
As stated above, it is very difficult to identify if you have the diseases at an early stage, there are few things that might indicate that you have the disease:
- Unnatural shaking
It is normal when your legs and hands shake after a heavy work or exercise. But, it is not normal when you shake while you sit or you chin, jaw, face, hands and legs quiver anytime. This may indicate a possible condition of Parkinson.
- Loss of sensation of smell
What if you cannot smell your favourite food or the smell of foods like pickles and curries? One loses his/her capacity to smell when s/he is suffering from cold or flu. But, if you don’t have any of those and lost your sensation of smell, there might be something wrong.
- Trouble moving or walking
A person who cannot move or walk freely and feels stiffness in his/her body might have Parkinson’s. Such individual also may have pain in the hips and the joints.
As common as constipation seems and generally associated with gastrointestinal diseases more often than not, people with Parkinson’s disease may have the problem of constipation as well with sudden bowel movements.
- Softening of voice
Has anyone ever suggested that you have a very soft voice or your voice has softened over the time? Or you may have been told that your voice has become hoarse. It is wise to contact a neurologist, if so.
- Gloomy face
When a person looks depressed and sad even when s /he is not, this might be the condition of Parkinson. Moreover, people with such face tend not to blink their eyes and stare for a long period of time.
- Dizziness and/or fainting
Feeling of dizziness when standing up suddenly and fainting also has been associated with Parkinson’s.
- Difficulty standing straight
People with Parkinson find it hard to stand straight and have the urgency to lean on something more often than not. People find it difficult to stand erect without support as time goes by.
This might be confusing at first. It is not necessary that people who have Parkinson have small handwriting or vice versa. But, the gradual decrease in the size or a sudden change of one’s handwriting has been linked to Parkinson.
- Trouble sleeping
Sometimes people experience trouble while sleeping. Not insomnia in which you cannot fall asleep but when one is asleep. S/he may feel like falling or such sudden movements during their sleep. S/her may also throw legs and hands in the air. Such condition may indicate towards the possibility of Parkinson’s disease.
Although not certain, the occurrence of two or more such condition in an individual may be an indication that s/he has Parkinson’s disease. If identified early, physiotherapy, medication and regular physical exercise can improve the quality of life and extend the life by many years.