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A Quick Glimpse Into The Condition Called Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson's disease affects the brain and the brain controls many body functions, you can expect the disease to manifest itself in a variety of ways. This disease develops when the neurons (nerve cells) in the substantia nigra, a crescent moon-shaped mass of cells in the brain, die off or become hindered in some way. The substantia nigra produces dopamine, a chemical which allows your body movements to appear smooth and seamless. However, when the cells that produce the dopamine start to die off, you develop symptoms of Parkinson's disease. It may take 70% or more of dopamine cell producing damage before the effects become apparent.

Symptoms and Signs of the Disease

When the neurons in the substantia nigra stop producing dopamine or become damaged, you will start to see symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as balance problems, shaking tremors, stiffness or rigidity of movement and increased slowness in movement. In addition, you may also develop other signs of the disease and they may include taut facial expressions, depression, shuffling during walking, speech problems and issues with handwriting.

As Parkinson's disease progresses, other more serious signs and symptoms may crop up. Cognitive impairment is a problem with mental confusion and memory recall, particularly procedural recall, can be affected. In the worst cases, dementia can occur. Dizziness, fainting, body pain, sleep disturbances, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, drooling, swallowing impairment and even disturbing dreams all can occur, with some symptoms being worse than others.

The Development of the Disease

There is no discernible difference in the number of cases of Parkinson's disease among men and women. Both sexes develop the condition in virtually equal occurrences. Geography, economic backgrounds, ethnicity, and culture - none of these aspects plays a part in the development of Parkinson's disease. Typically, older adults over the age of 65 develop the disease but 15-20% of the cases diagnosed each year are younger than the age of 50. Hollywood actor Michael J. Fox is a widely known example of this fact.

Much research has been conducted to determine if genetics or outside factors such as head trauma or exposure to environmental toxins are causes of Parkinson's disease. The jury is still out and in the meantime, over 50,000 people each year in this country get the diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no one definitive test that exposes Parkinson's disease but rather a series of tests are conducted to rule out other conditions that could cause symptoms similar to the disease. Only after extensive brain scans like MRIs, blood tests and other neurological examinations do doctors place the blame on Parkinson's disease.

Treatment options include medications that attempt to replace the lost stores of dopamine in the brain or at least mimic the effects to improve the motor problems associated with the disease. A number of new medications including medicine patches are being tested. Gene therapy is in the research testing phase and surgery is an option that can ease the symptoms of the disease but not cure it.

Many people with the Parkinson's disease diagnosis can live for many years, going about their lives with work and family. Certain allowances have to be made and adaptations in lifestyle adopted. The disease itself is not a killer but it does complicate other health issues as they arise. With the help of an understanding neurologist, you can co-exist somewhat peacefully with Parkinson's disease.

News About Parkinson's Disease

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