What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinsonís disease (PD) is a progressive degenerative
disorder of the brain caused by the death or impairment
of certain brain cells which control movement.
Parkinsonís disease typically onsets after 60 years of
age and is more common in men than in women.
are highly characteristic, although not exclusive of PD,
and include: tremors in the hands, arms, legs, face and
jaw, stiffness of the trunk, arms and legs, slowness of
movement, and impaired balance and coordination. They
usually begin slowly, and gradually get worse to the
point that many patients eventually have difficulty
walking, talking, swallowing, chewing and carrying out
the simplest tasks. Other symptoms that can accompany
Parkinsonís disease are depression, anxiety,
constipation, urinary problems (incontinence or
retention), dry or oily skin, excessive sweating, sleep
problems, muscle cramps, and muscle or joint ache.
Although it is known that Parkinsonís disease
results from the death or impairment of certain brain
cells responsible for producing dopamine (a brain
chemical involved in the regulation of purposeful
movement), the exact cause leading to their death or
impairment still remains to be established. Both genetic
and environmental factors have been implicated in the
onset and progression of the disease, but currently the
exact role of each of these factors (genes, toxins and
certain viruses) and how they interplay with each other
are still poorly understood.
PD has no cure at the moment. But fortunately it
is not a fatal disease and effective treatments* exist to
relieve dramatically the symptoms. There are three main
categories of medications used to treat PD symptoms: 1)
drugs that work by increasing the brain levels of
dopamine or by mimicking its action (e.g. dopamine
precursors such as levodopa, MAO inhibitors, dopamine
agonists); 2) drugs that work by affecting the levels of
other brain chemicals involved in the control of
movement (e.g. anticholinergic drugs); 3) medications
used to control the non-motor symptoms of PD (e.g.
antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs).
The effectiveness of levodopa (a dopamine
precursor) in relieving the motor symptoms of PD is so
high that it is considered as the cornerstone of PD
treatment. However it is important to remember that
levodopa cannot cure or stop the progression of the
disease, but can only improve tremors, stiffness and
slowness of movement, especially during the first stages
Unfortunately long-term use of large doses of
levodopa can lead to hallucinations, psychosis and
involuntary movements such as twitches or muscle spasms.
In addition patients can gradually become unresponsive
to tolerable doses of levodopa, as the disease
progresses. In all these cases (that is when levodopa
begins to produce severe side effects or is no longer
effective), surgical treatment should be considered.
Currently, the most effective surgical treatment for
Parkinsonís disease is deep brain stimulation, which
involves the implantation of electrodes into specific
parts of the brain in order to stimulate them in a way
that prevents PD motor symptoms from occurring. Anyway,
just as levodopa treatment, deep brain stimulation is
not a cure, but only a method to relieve PD symptoms.
Since Parkinsonís disease is a chronic condition
that requires long-term treatment. In order to be
covered in the event you may be suffering from Parkinson
disease in the future, an appropriate
international health insurance plan is advised.
If you would like to protect yourself or your family
from unexpected medical conditions that may appear you can ask us
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*Always seek professional medical advise from a
qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.