Common FAQs About Parkinson's – The Shaking Disease


By Beth Maxwell

While many people have a basic understanding of what Parkinson's disease is, they may not know who, what, when, where, how and why of it all. To better understand this "shaking" disease, the following frequently asked questions should help you figure things out.

1. What is Parkinson's disease? It is a chronic degenerative neurological disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start out minor but progressively get worse. There is no cure. Common symptoms of the disease include tremor of the limbs, even at rest, in addition to stiffness of arms, legs and trunk of the body, slowness of movement and balance and posture impairment.

2. How many people are affected by the disease? Over one million people have the disease and almost 50,000 people each year are diagnosed with it. Of course, these numbers do not take into account the cases that are undetected or even misdiagnosed. The primary age group of affected individuals is over the age of 60 but there is a small percentage of cases where the age is under 40.

3. What is the cause of it? The true cause of Parkinson's disease is not known, just like other neurological disorders. Medical researchers are looking into genetics playing a part in the disease as well as outside environmental factors such as the use of pesticides and overall air pollution.

4. Can Parkinson's be inherited? While the majority of disease cases are not the result of an inherited gene, there is some evidence that it could be a possibility in some. Medical researchers have found several genes that have been shown to cause the disease in a small percentage of families.

5. What biological actions occur that cause the disease to develop? Parkinson's disease aka PD occurs when the nerve cells in the substantia nigra, a crescent shaped area in the brain, start to die or become damaged. These nerve cells called neurons produce dopamine, a chemical transmitter that sends messages to the brain that affect motor coordination. When the dopamine cannot be sent adequately to the brain, this causes motor coordination to be erratic, causing the telltale tremors, shakiness and other side effects.

6. Is there a particular test for diagnosing it? There is no definitive standardized test that labels Parkinson's disease. Rather, a neurologist will perform a number of neurological tests and physical examinations to rule out other possible illnesses that mimic Parkinson's side effects before coming to a definitive conclusion of PD.

7. Is there a specific treatment for Parkinson's disease? There is no cure for the disease but medications are available. Dopamine agonists are drugs that stimulate the production of the chemical or mimic its effects in the brain. These drugs stave off the disease from becoming worse for a while. Levodopa is one of the most widely known Parkinson's drugs prescribed along with other medications. There are a few surgical options to consider like deep brain stimulation and a brain pacemaker but only in severe conditions where drug therapy is not working.

8. Is it a death sentence? Though the disease itself is not a fatal one but it can make life a lot harder for sufferers, especially when the symptoms make it impossible to live independently. People do die from Parkinson's related complications like a car accident or even pneumonia.

There is much being done to discover not only a cure but why and how Parkinson's disease develops. Every year, there are many trials to test drugs and other clinical research. Talk with a doctor that specializes in Parkinson's disease to see what clinical trials are currently being offered.

If you have a partner, friend or relative suffering from Parkinsons you can help them to a better life under the circumstances.

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