Updated 10 October 2023 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Parkinson's Disease?Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects a person's ability to control their body's movements. The disease results from a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, particularly in a region called the substantia nigra. Symptoms such as shaking and slow movement often develop gradually and can vary in severity from person to person. Parkinson's disease can significantly impact a person's daily life, but with the right care and support, individuals can continue to lead fulfilling lives and maintain their independence as much as possible.
Parkinson's Disease SymptomsParkinson's disease is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to control their movements. There are several common symptoms, which include:
- Tremors that present as uncontrollable shaking (i.e., arms, legs, etc.)
- Muscle rigidity and stiffness
- Slow movement (also known as bradykinesia)
- Difficult starting or initiation movement
- Troubles with balance can result in falls.
- Freezing gait
- Erratic and jerky movements
- Difficulties speaking and swallowing
What causes Parkinson’s Disease?While Parkinson’s disease is a common condition, its exact cause is not fully understood. Causes vary from person to person, however, researchers indicate there are several factors that may lead to Parkinson’s disease, including:
Dopamine DeficiencyThe primary cause of Parkinson's is a loss of specialised cells in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine . Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals that control movement and coordination. When these cells deteriorate, it leads to a lack of dopamine, which disrupts the brain's ability to control movements.
Genetic FactorsIn some cases, Parkinson's disease can be linked to genetic mutations or inherited factors . While these cases are relatively rare, they can increase the risk of developing the disease.
Environmental FactorsExposure to certain environmental toxins and chemicals may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease . These toxins can include pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals.
AgeingParkinson's disease is more common in older adults, and advancing age is a significant risk factor. While it can occur at any age, the risk increases as people get older.
Other FactorsSome studies  have suggested that factors like head injuries and inflammation in the brain may play a role in the development of Parkinson's, but these links are not fully understood.
Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis and TestingDiagnosing Parkinson's disease involves a combination of medical assessments and tests to identify the characteristic symptoms and rule out other potential causes. Your GP will be able to guide you through diagnosis and testing. A referral to a specialist, such as a neurologist, may be necessary. Diagnosing Parkinson's disease can be challenging, as its symptoms can overlap with those of other neurological conditions. It's crucial for healthcare professionals to carefully evaluate a patient's medical history and conduct a thorough examination to make an accurate diagnosis .
Neurological ExaminationYour doctor and/or neurologist may conduct a neurological examination to assess the patient's coordination, muscle strength, reflexes, and sensory functions. These tests can provide information about any potential Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Blood TestsAlthough there is no specific blood test for diagnosing Parkinson's, blood tests can help rule out other conditions that might have similar symptoms.
Imaging TestsBrain imaging, like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computed Tomography) scans, may be used to create detailed pictures of the brain. These scans can help in identifying structural abnormalities and ruling out other conditions that might be similar to Parkinson's disease.
DaTscanA specialised imaging test called a DaTscan may be used to assess dopamine levels in the brain . It can help differentiate between Parkinson's disease and other disorders that affect dopamine levels.
Parkinson's Disease ComplicationsParkinson's disease can lead to several complications that affect a person's daily life and overall well-being. These complications can vary in severity and often develop as the disease progresses. Some common complications include: Problems with mobility, such as difficulty walking, troubles with balance, and difficulty moving around at home.
- Psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, memory problems, and difficulty with thinking,
- Freezing gait, which occurs when people feel like their feet are stuck to the ground, makes it hard to take steps. This can be particularly frustrating and may lead to falls.
- Dyskinesia is a problem that can lead to involuntary and erratic movements.
- Issues with speech and communication.
- Swallowing problems can increase the risk of choking or pneumonia.
- Medication side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, sleep issues, hallucinations, etc.
- Cognitive decline
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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