Parkinson’s Disease: Understanding the signs, symptoms

While an incurable disease, there are treatment options available

April marks Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease, and an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are diagnosed. In partnership with Methodist Healthcare. #ad #MethodistHealthcare #ksat12

April marks Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease, and an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are diagnosed.

While it is an incurable disease, Dr. Ryan Kochanski with Methodist Healthcare said there are options to help patients experience a good quality of life.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that involves the loss of dopamine-producing cells deep within the brain. The loss of dopamine can lead to clinical symptoms.

What signs and symptoms are associated with Parkinson’s Disease?

Early symptoms may include:

  • Decreased arm swing on one side of the body
  • Hesitant shuffling while walking

Other symptoms include:

  • Tremors or shaking
  • Stiffness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
  • Problems with balance and coordination

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The incidence of Parkinson’s Disease increases with age. Approximately 1% of the population over the age of 60 is affected.

The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown in most cases, although, a small subset of patients may have a genetic component that contributes to the progression of the disease.

Experts believe the symptoms are linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by brain cell death. Parkinson is chronic. Symptoms grow worse over time.

Experts think that, in most people, the cause of Parkinson’s is a mix of genes and the environment. Studies have shown that rural living, exposure to well water, and exposure to agricultural pesticides and herbicides are linked to Parkinson’s.

But these factors don’t guarantee you will get the disease, nor does their absence prevent it.

How is Parkinson’s disease treated? Who is a candidate for Deep Brain Stimulation?

Medications such as Levodopa can be highly effective at controlling symptoms of the disease, Kochanski said.

But what happens over time is that it becomes less predictable to dose -- meaning, it becomes more difficult to provide relief to patients.

If medication has become less effective over time, or potential side-effects from medication interfere with your quality of life, Deep Brain Stimulation may be a viable treatment option for movement disorders or other neuropsychiatric conditions.

Deep brain stimulation, more commonly known as DBS, is a procedure in which electrical impulses are sent to certain parts of the brain to regulate abnormal impulses. These electrical impulses are carefully administered, so there is no permanent damage to healthy brain tissue.

Patients selected for DBS must undergo an extensive evaluation process performed by a team of experts to ensure that is a suitable treatment option based on the patient’s condition, family history, and other risk factors.