Posted: August 7th, 2013
Complete Information About Parkinson’s Disease
Complete Information about Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease refers to a progressive disorder of the brain, which causes tremors, walking difficulties and problems of body coordination and movement. The disease affects both men and women especially those who are fifty years and over. However, cases have been cited of younger adults suffering from the disease also called juvenile-onset Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is among the most common disorders of the nervous system among the elderly population. The disease develops slowly and gradually without its effects being felt during the early stages. Almost one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease and close to five million people worldwide. Many people are at risk of getting the disease. However, age is the largest factor as it heightens rate of increase of the disease mostly in people of sixty years of age and above. Men are also at a higher risk than women are, almost 1.5-2 times the rate of risk between the two sexes.
Family history also increases the risk for few of the victims (Weiner et al., 2001). Exposure to toxins in the environment like herbicides, other illnesses and trauma on the head are likely to increase chances of sickness. These chemicals are shown to be high risk factors in the genes of an individual causing gene alteration and mutation. The condition is diagnosed during its early stages with specialized treatment done when the disease is established to improve the living conditions of the person as the disease has no known cure. Over the years, research and studies have been conducted to find the cause, implications of genes on the disease, impact of the environment on the disease and the use of therapy to maintain the disease. This research has a profound impact on the medical field and helps to distinguish the disease from illnesses with similar symptoms and effects. The patients can now have a “normal” life with the help of therapy, optional surgery and family support. It is also important for people who are at a high risk of contracting the disease to have tests carried out earlier to prevent the serious effects that occur later in life.
Parkinson’s disease is caused when the substance that acts as the messenger between the substantia nigra and the corpus striatam, called dopamine, is reduced or completely lost in the system. The loss of dopamine occurs when the dopamine producing cells are lost inside the substantia nigra. When the rate of losing dopamine is high, the movement of the body is greatly impaired. Low levels of dopamine cause the state of communication of the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum to become ineffective (Factor, 2008). The other cells in the brain also begin to degenerating slowly also contributing to the symptoms related to the loss of movement and motor capabilities. Cell damage like that of dopamine-producing cells is attributed to various factors such as inflammation, a variety of cellular processes that are dysfunctional and impact of stress on an individual. People with the disease also have Lewy bodies that have a protein called alpha-synuclein. Its functions in relation to Parkinson’s disease has neither been proven nor known. Health specialists and researchers have suspected the loss of dopamine to be caused by both environmental factors and genetics.
Some genes are associated with Parkinson’s disease and the five definite genes include SNCA (synuclein, alpha non-A4 component of amyloid precursor), PARK2 (Parkinson’s disease autosomal recessive, juvenile 2), PERK7 (Parkinson’s disease autosomal recessive, early onset 7), PINK1 (PTEN-induced putative kinase 1) and LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) (Sietske 2010). SNCA produces alpha-synuclein a protein that is aggregated into Lewy bodies at the beginning of Parkinson’s disease. PARK2 gene mutations occur in persons with juvenile Parkinson’s disease. PARK2 is responsible for the formation of Parkin that aids cells in breaking down and recycling proteins. PARK7 makes the protein called DJ-1 that helps in the protection of oxidative stress. Its mutations are spotted in the early stages of the disease. PINK1 mutation is also found in the beginning of the disease. LRRK2 mutations are found at the later stages of the disease, and the genes make a protein referred to as dardarin. Other genes and chromosomal regions that are linked to the disease are GBA (glucosidase beta acid), UCHL1 (ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1) and SNCAIP (synuclein alpha interacting hormone) (Sietske, 2010).
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are mainly mild at the onset, but over time, they become progressive. These symptoms are all in relation to both voluntary and involuntary mobile functions and begin on one section of the body (Sharma, 2008). These functions include tremors especially when an individual is resting, slow voluntary movement (bradykinesia) leading to stiffness of facial muscles, inability to have a stable posture with difficulty to adjust posture leading to falls and Parkinsonian gait (a particular shuffling walking style with little or no arm swing). Research shows that, within the period, the early primary symptoms are recorded, the persons with the disease are said to lose about a total of 60-80 percent of the cells in the brain that produce dopamine. Secondary symptoms of the disease the patient develops high levels of stress, anxiety, constipation, increased depression, reduced sense of smell, sweating, erectile dysfunction of the males, slowed, reduced speech and frequency in urinary processes (Fredericks, 2009).
Symptoms commonly found in the elderly people include frequent confusion, dementia and regular loss of memory. Parkinson’s disease should be diagnosed early to establish the best treatment strategies for the maintenance of quality life for the individual. Moreover, there is no clear test in the diagnosis of the disease with the exception when the person is dead. There are similarities in movement related disorders, and other conditions with similar diseases and this makes the early phase detection and diagnosis quite challenging. The individual is re-evaluated during the early phase regularly to exclude any other condition associated with the symptoms (Silverstein et al., 2002). Neurologists specializing in the movement disorders can make an accurate diagnosis. Initial assessment are based on the person’s medical history to know if other family members have the disease, the medication they used, and whether the patient has had toxin exposure and repeated trauma in the head (Ahlskog, 2005).
Tests including, measuring the patient’s mental capacity, their daily activities and the progress of the disease over time for making necessary therapeutic adjustments are done. There is no treatment that to cure the disease. Therapy is done in order to delay the surge of the motor symptoms. The aim of the therapies is to increase the level of dopamine in the brain through replacement mechanisms and inhibit its breakdown to prolong its effect (Adler et al., 2000). Research shows these systems lower the onset of the symptoms of motor irregularities. Surgery can be an option for people whose motor symptoms cannot be managed. Electrode implants are used to stimulate certain sections of the brain or the particular regions of the brain leading to the disease are destroyed. New methods are presented daily such as the use of stem cells to produce dopamine has shown potential in the treatment process (Arenas, 2012).
Since there is a single cell type that is, well defined, stem cells offer an immense potential for management of the disease. This would involve the replacement of dead (destroyed) cells with dopaminergic neurons that are identical. The stem cells are also perceived to aid the patients with discovering new drugs. These drugs are said to have better benefits than the cell therapies. Embryonic-like cells are gotten from the adults through a process called reprogramming the adult cells, which are specialized, can make induced pluripotent stem (iPS). These cells make any kind of cell in the body such as dopaminergic neurons. The scientists make these iPS cells from people with Parkinson’s disease and produce the neurons within their laboratories. They aim to study these cells and test them for various substances that can be used to make new drugs. However, more research is needed because the stem cell procedures are not routine medical procedures.
General lifestyle changes such as therapeutic physical exercise should be undertaken on a regular basis by the patient. In addition, speech therapy is advised for the person to record positive results and reduce the severity of the disease on his speech and communication ability and cell degeneration (Ahlskog, 2009). The person loses some aspects such as social life, family, basic daily activities and other social engagements. This loss of independence and adaptation to the new health status can cause psychological trauma and anxiety. When the patient has an informed analysis of future complications and psychological help can reduce this. A number of organizations and support groups can help the individual in coping with the disease. The patient should keep in touch with the healthcare providers and therapists to prevent the condition from worsening.. Families can also offer emotional support in the maintenance and control of their kin’s quality of health and life.
The illness undergoes a slow and steady progress and affects the individual’s aspects of living. Experts are of the view that the diseases’ complexity in terms of genetic composition and contact to factors involving the environment such as sickness, head trauma and toxins makes treatment difficult. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder in which a majority of individuals with the disease can live a long life that is productive after years of diagnosis. In addition, more research should be done on the disease to reduce its severity and consequently find an overall cure. Awareness programs and health education especially for those at a high risk will aid in reducing the prevalence of the disease.
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