Learn About Ailments | Parkinsons disease

Parkinsons disease

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects voluntary movement. Characteristics of Parkinson's disease include shaking and a slow decrease in mobility. Symptoms take many months before they are noticed and the disease is diagnosed. Parkinson's disease is caused by loss of nerve cells and a resulting decrease in production of the dopamine chemical. Dopamine helps transmit messages from the brain to control bodily movement.
Parkinsons disease

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Symptoms of Parkinson's disease Diagnosis of Parkinson's disease
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Did you know?
  • In the UK, 10,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year
  • 120,000 people have the disease in the UK
  • An estimated 4 million people worldwide have Parkinson's disease
  • 1 in 20 people diagnosed with the condition are under 40 years-old

A brain chemical called 'dopamine' helps to transmit messages around the brain which control body movement. When nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra become damaged,  the amount of dopamine is reduced and the body loses mobility. Once 80% of the nerve cells have died, Parkinson's disease symptoms appear.

Why the nerve cells become damaged is unknown but genetic and environmental factors are believed to be responsible.

The severity of Parkinson's symptoms vary from person to person but the three common symptoms are:
  • Slow movement (known as bradykinesia)
  • Tremors (shakes)
  • Muscle stiffness (rigidity)
A slowness of movement and lack of coordination are often attributed to old age but these can be an indication of Parkinson's disease. Performing normal tasks such as getting in and out of chair can become difficult and take longer.

Tremors usually begin in the hands and arms and can be more noticeable during stressful or anxious moments. Although commonly associated to Parkinson's, tremors or shakes do not affect 30% of people diagnosed with the condition.

Muscle stiffness, particularly in finger and facial movement, is common to Parkinson's disease. Performing everyday tasks can become difficult as muscles feel tense.

Other associated symptoms include:
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • constipation
  • weak bladder
  • problems swallowing
  • poor speech
  • problems with balance
  • difficulty writing by hand

No conclusive tests exist to diagnose Parkinson's disease and a GP will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, a physical examination and your medical history. A GP may refer you to a specialist if the disease is suspected. You may be referred for blood tests and an MRI scan to determine if the condition is linked to environmental contaminants such as toxins.

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Muscle spasm

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