Health

Parkinson's Disease—An Overview of Causes, Symptoms And Stages

Parkinson's disease is a progressive condition of the central nervous system that causes movement difficulties, tremors and muscle rigidity. Here’s what the latest research says about Parkinson’s disease.

By Sadhana Kumari
29 April 2022

Parkinson's disease is named after physician James Parkinson who first coined the term in 1817.

The Parkinson’s foundation in 2020 reveals that worldwide, over 10 million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease. Further, the numbers are expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030, according to a 2017 study published by the National Institute On Ageing, in the Health Information journal. Parkinson’s disease can occur in both men and women before the age of 50. However, in rare cases (5-10 per cent) might develop signs of PD before fifty years of age and it is 50 per cent more prevalent in men than women.

 

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What Is Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a deteriorating neurological illness of the central nervous system. It is categorised as a progressive disorder, meaning it gets worse over time, and it slowly affects a person's ability to walk, talk, and perform everyday activities. Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson disease are characterised by the progressive and often irreversible loss of neurons in different regions of the brain that eventually lead to cognitive impairment and dementia. Although it can occur to anyone, people with a genetic history of Parkinson’s disease are at high risk of getting the condition.

 

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Causes of Parkinson's Disease

There is growing evidence suggesting that cognitive decline and dementia, as well as the progression of neurodegeneration in patients with Parkinson disease, are linked with aggregation and accumulation of toxic proteins and peptides, mainly β-amyloid plaques and α-synuclein (protein found in neuropathology disorders) inclusions.

 

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, Parkinson's disease is described as a group of various medical subtypes, pathogenic genes and dietary factors and is caused due to the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in the brain, which is responsible for thinking, feeling and regulating muscle movements. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death of a particular group of cells (neurons) leading to a decrease in the signal-relaying chemical dopamine causing tremors, slow movement and stiffness in the body.

 

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Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The first signs are problems with movement. You might experience tremors, slow movements, stiffness and difficulty in walking. As the disease progresses, it might cause a loss of automatic bodily functions such as temperature and blood pressure control, and even affect your bowel and bladder.

 

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, Parkinson’s disease starts with motor and non-motor symptoms such as rapid eye movement, sleep disorder and depression. As the disease progresses, it can cause cognitive impairment (dementia) in later stages of the condition.

 

Stages Of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease has been classified into five stages to observe, diagnose and provide the right treatment as per the condition.

 

Stage 1. In the foremost phase, it is almost impossible to detect any signs as they are usually unnoticeable and people with the condition might not even experience any symptoms. The patient can continue with their daily work and life chores without any interruption.

 

Stage 2. This is a moderate phase in Parkinson’s disease as the progression of the illness can take tentatively from one month to several years. In this stage, patient can experience symptoms such as:

  • Shaking or trembling limbs can prolong the duration of completing daily tasks.
  • Muscle stiffness can restrict doing certain activities that include holding or grasping things.
  • Tremors can be felt in more than one part of the body, usually in low frequency. But, it may differ from person to person.

 

Stage 3: This is the phase where the patient is more likely to notice underlying symptoms than before. The physical changes are more noticeable like slower actions with unstable hands and occasional falls with non-fatal injuries.

 

Stage 4: At stage 4, a patient can experience a significant change in his/her mobility like difficulty in walking, standing, climbing stairs, etc. Taking constant support or assistance can be a daily routine for people in this stage.

 

Stage 5: It is a severe state where all prominent signs of reduced bodily functions such as constipation, bladder issue, dips and rise in temperature and blood pressure, are visible. As per a 2022 study issued in Alzheimer's Association, around 50-80 percent of people affected with Parkinson’s disease can even develop hallucinations and dementia at this stage.

 

Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

According to a 2018 report on Parkinson’s disease treatment and risk factors published in Frontiers of Neuroscience, despite the high prevalence of the disease, there is still no cure for this illness due to its complex nature. However, various medications, rehabilitation, surgeries and physical therapies are available that can help manage PD symptoms based on patients’ symptoms and severity.

 

Medicines: As per a 2018 study published in Frontiers of Neuroscience, different medications are available to treat the lack of dopamine. Medications can temporarily suppress symptoms by increasing dopamine levels. Some promising clinical compounds are given to patients to boost self-discard mechanisms in the body. This is important for the removal of dead or damaged cells, and long-lived inactive proteins from the body.

Surgeries: When the patient is in the final stage of Parkinson's disease where medications cannot suppress them any longer, surgery and deep brain simulations can be the final options for the treatment. It involves sending electrical impulses to certain parts of the brain, by a neurostimulator device or a brain implant also known as a ‘brain pacemaker.’ Stimulation of neurons may also improve motor problems in people with Parkinson’s disease for a long time.

Gene Therapy: Gene therapy or cell replacement therapy has convincing results in people with Parkinson's disease. According to a 2020 report published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, a clinical trial on 12 PD patients with generating pluripotent (producing various types of cells) stem cells, showed little improvement in muscle tone and motor functions. However, more research is needed in order to understand and find an effective solution to this problem.

 

 

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