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Parkinson's Disease

Introduction

Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder caused by the progressive degeneration of the substantia nigra and to the lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine produced in the basal ganglia. It affects more than 10 million people in the world, and happens 1.5% more likely in men than women. Parkinson’s disease cannot be treated with drugs, in which it may only alleviate the symptoms. In serious cases, doctors may suggest patients to undergo neurosurgery in hopes of improving some symptoms.


Symptoms

  • Tremor at rest

  • Rigidity in the muscles, thus limiting the muscle movement of a patient

  • Small movements that are involuntary (eg. akathisia, oculogyric crisis, sudden head jerks, eye movement)

  • Facial masking (looking serious, sad even though being in a good mood)

  • Bradykinesia (slowness in the movement)


Risk factors

  1. Genes

    1. It has been identified that a specific genetic mutation has caused there to be a higher chance of experiencing Parkinson’s disease. However, in a larger scale of the population, this may seem less significant but must still be taken account for.

  2. The presence of Lewy bodies

    1. Lewy bodies are clumps of substances formed between brain cells, which contains a protein called Alpha-synuclein that cells cannot break down. This acts as a microscopic marker for researchers to look into Parkinson's disease, and is expected to link to the cause of Parkinson’s disease as well.

  3. Age

    1. People typically develop Parkinson’s disease at around 60 years old, and is seldom found in teenagers or young adults.


  1. Environmental triggers

    1. Even though relatively less significant, but exposure to toxins and environmental factors may also be the cause of Parkinson’s disease


How to treat Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease can be treated in many different ways based on the seriousness of the symptoms. The most common way is to treat it with medicine, however, it still doesn’t have the ability to reverse the whole disease. It is only to alleviate some symptoms to carry off the burden on patients. Less serious cases can be improved by lifestyle modifications such as eating the right food, exercising more, interacting more with others. More serious cases may have to consult surgical therapy. There are 3 main kinds of surgical therapy, including ablative brain surgery (which helps albate or destroy affected areas of the brain), deep brain stimulation of the internal globus pallidus and thalamus, as well as the subthalamic nucleus.


Misconceptions about Parkinson’s disease

  1. Parkinson’s disease is fatal

    1. NO it is not, it doesn’t have a direct link to fatal diseases like heart attacks or stroke, but it may be fatal if there isn’t sufficient care for the patient, as one might suffer from a fall or infection that the patient cannot detect themselves.

  2. Nothing can be done to help with Parkinson’s disease except for medication/ surgery

    1. FALSE. Study has shown that people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease who are more active than those who do not can move around more in daily life as compared to those who do not.

  3. Parkinson’s disease is only a motor disease

    1. FALSE. There are non-motor symptoms that are linked to Parkinson’s as well, namely depression, fatigue, anxiety, sleeping problems etc. that can affect a person.


The causes of motor impairments

In PD patients, dopamine (an essential brain monoamine) secreted in the substantial nigra, pars compacta (SNpc) is inhibited, causing there to be low levels of DA. Since the basal ganglia is responsible for motor control in the body, this will affect the movements of PD patients, causing tremor.


Sources



Writer: Alicia Lam

Editor: Hailey Wong

Thumbnail: Annette Ma

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