What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological movement disorder which leads to depletion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter or chemical which sends signals around the brain. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease. It affects about 1% of people who are 65 years or over.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be classified into motor and non-motor symptoms. Motor symptoms are symptoms that affect movement.
The primary visible symptom of Parkinson’s is tremor (shaking), but other motor symptoms include muscle rigidity, difficulty starting movement and slowness in movement (bradykinesia), issues with posture and gait. Parkinson’s disease can also affect handwriting, causing it to be smaller than usual (micrographia). Patients with Parkinson’s disease may also speak more softly than they used to (hypophonia) and their facial expression may not be very animated.
Non-motor symptoms are symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that do not affect movement. Patients with Parkinson’s disease may experience non-motor symptoms including mood changes, pain, fatigue and sleep difficulty.
Treatments for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease was considered untreatable until the 1960s. Fortunately, medical and surgical treatments to reduce the symptoms have been developed. Researchers are continuing to search for treatments that can halt or reverse the brain degeneration which underlies Parkinson’s symptoms.
Several classes of medications that may be used in the treatment of Parkinson’s include:
- MAO-B inhibitors (e.g. selegeline)
- Dopamine agonists (e.g. apomorphine)
- Anticholinergics (e.g. trihexyphenidyl, orphenadrine)
- Levodopa (L-dopa) (may be combined with carbidopa)
Making lifestyle changes is important in treating Parkinson’s disease. A regular exercise program helps to maintain abilities, increase mobility in joints, strengthen muscles and build up fitness in general.
In some patients with treatment-resistant movement disorders, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can lessen motor symptoms. Deep brain stimulation involves placing a small device in the chest, which sends electrical signals to specific parts of the brain to lessen symptoms.
Dr Julian Rodrigues is a neurologist who specialises in the treatment of movement disorders and has developed Australian treatment guidelines for Parkinson’s disease.
To discuss Parkinson’s disease treatments and cost, please contact our office.
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- Who gets Parkinson’s disease and what are the major risk factors?
- Read more about the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and how the disease progresses
- Learn more about the specific treatments for Parkinson’s disease and when they may be used