Parkinson’s disease is a disease in which nerves are affected and is a movement disorder. The disease symptoms are less in the beginning and worsen as time passes. How this disease develops health experts are not aware. But they believe that that genetic changes and exposure to environmental factors such as toxins play the leading role.
The symptoms of this disease develop gradually. They often start with a feeling of stiffness in the body and a slight tremor in one hand. Movements symptoms can 1st start at one side, and gradually, the other side will start. There is no cure for the disease. But with medicines, symptoms can be reduced.
It is a neurological disorder that develops when changes occur in the brain. It is unclear when it happens, but scientists have identified some variations that occur. Males are 50% more likely to be affected by this disease. The condition appears mainly from the age of 60 years. However, 10% of patients are diagnosed before age 50. each year, about 60,000 new cases of this disease are diagnosed in the US.
There are three stages of the disease –
- Early Stage – Early symptoms are usually mild, occur slowly, and do not interfere with daily activities. Sometimes the early symptoms are not easy to detect. People may experience fatigue or general uneasiness.
- Mid-stage – Symptoms start getting worse. Movement problems, muscle stiffness, tremor affects both sides of the body. Balance and fall problems become more common. Daily tasks become difficult.
- Mid-late stage – Standing and walking become problematic and may require support. Full-time help might be needed.
- Advance stage – Now, a wheelchair is needed for movement, or a person is entirely bedridden. People may experience hallucinations or delusions.
Symptoms include –
- Movement changes, such as tremors.
- Unsteady walk and balance and coordination problems.
- Muscle twisting, spasms, or cramps
- A loss of sense of smell.
- Stooped posture.
- Fixed facial expressions due to changes in the nerves that control facial muscles.
- More cramped and smaller handwriting.
- People can drop things or fall over because of coordination and balance problem.
- A voice tremor or softer voice.
- Sleep problems result from restless legs and other factors.
- Mood changes.
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing.
- Skin problem.
- Low blood pressure.
Causes of Parkinson’s disease –
- This disease occurs when nerve cells substantia nigra in the brain become impaired or die. These cells typically produce dopamine. Lowering or falling levels of dopamine ( a neurotransmitter) cause this disease. Dopamine is essential for the operation of the basal ganglia, another area in the brain. This area helps in sending messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. So low level can make it hard for people to control the action. When the group falls, more and more symptoms become more severe.
- Damage to the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine (neurotransmitter) can cause this disease. Norepinephrine helps in blood circulation and other automatic bodily functions. The lower level of norepinephrine increases the risk of motor and nonmotor symptoms like stiffness and rigidity, postural instability, tremor, anxiety, difficulty focusing, dementia, depression.
- A person with this disease has clumps of protein alpha-synuclein or Lewy bodies in their brain. The accumulation of Lewy bodies can cause a loss of nerve cells, changes in mood, behavior, thinking, movement. It can also cause dementia.
- Health experts have found out that changes in several genes can cause this disease, but this disease is not considered hereditary. Scientists have discovered many genetic mutations linked to this disease. But even when people have a genetic mutation associated with this disease doesn’t mean they will develop the disease. Genetic factors cause 10% of cases. Mostly with people who have early onset of the disease. Lots of more research are being carried out to find the genetic link.
- Many other gene mutations have been identified which play a role in this disease. The mutations in these genes cause abnormal cell functioning. The nerve cells’ ability to release dopamine is affected and causes nerve cell death. Researchers are still researching to find out what causes these genes to mutate to understand how gene mutations cause this disease. Scientists believe that about 10% to 15% of people with this disease may have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to the development of the disease.
- In research by scientists, it has been found that there is a genetic link between this disease and autoimmune conditions.
- Previous traumatic brain injury can increase the risk of the disease.
- Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, solvents, metals, and other pollutants can cause the disease. For example, in the US, paraquat, a widely used commercial herbicide, and trichloroethylene in many industries can cause the disease.
- Certain medications can lead to this disease.
Prevention of Parkinson’s disease –
- It is not possible to prevent the disease, but some lifelong habits can reduce the risk.
- People should avoid toxins. People should be careful while using toxins like herbicides, pesticides, and solvents. Unnecessary use of herbicides, pesticides should be stopped. Protective clothes and safety measures should be used while using toxins.
- People should wear protective headgear while driving, cycling, sports to prevent injury to the head.
- Regular exercise helps to keep the brain healthy and reduces the risk of the disease.
- To improve the symptoms, health experts say focus on protein, gut bacteria, and flavinoids.
- Eating a diet high in antioxidants reduces oxidative stress that increases the disease. Food like nuts, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, spinach, kale is high in antioxidants.
- According to research, turmeric helps reduce oxidative stress and the clumping of alpha-synuclein protein, which helps prevent this disease.
- Reusing and heating the same cooking oil causes aldehydes (a toxic chemical) to form, which is linked to this disease.
- Fava beans are eaten if affected by this disease. It contains levodopa which is used in many medicines to treat the condition. But there’s no strong evidence at this time about this.
- Consuming food containing omega-three fatty acid help in the prevention of this disease.
Foods to avoid for Parkinson’s disease –
As per health experts, dairy products increase the risk of this disease. Certain things in dairy products negatively impact the oxidation levels in the brain, making symptoms more persistent. This effect is more potent in men than in women. But if a person stops dairy products, they will have to take a calcium supplement to make up for the calcium-deficient in the body.
Food with high saturated fats should be avoided. But the link between the high saturated fat and the disease is still under research and is often controversial. Some limited research suggests that high saturated fats increase the risk of the disease. The food that has been fried or processed should be avoided.
Diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease –
For diagnoses of the disease, the person will be asked about medical history, family history of neurologic disorders, current symptoms, exposure to toxins, current medications. Doctors will look for signs of muscle rigidity and tremor, check the posture and coordination of a person, watch the way a person walks, and try to find out slowness in movement. CT scans and MRIs also help to detect the disease.