Due to the nature of Parkinson’s disease, falls are a fairly common occurrence mainly due to instability with the posture and impaired gait. It has a host of complications as would frequent falls in any person, irrespective of Parkinson’s disease. However, bearing in mind that most Parkinson’s disease patients are older, the impact of these frequent falls can have severe consequences. Understanding the dangers associated with frequent falls and minimizing it is of the utmost importance.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most common neurologic disorders and the most common neurodegenerative diseases in the world. The pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease is quite well understood, albeit not completely. Dopaminergic neurons particularly in the substantia nigra, a part of the brain, becomes damaged gradually die leading to lower than normal levels of the brain hormone dopamine. Although this is known, the exact cause of this damage and cell death is not clearly understood. Risk factors including certain genetic mutations have been identified. However, these risks account for only a small proportion of PD cases. Analyzing the incidence and distribution of any disease also helps to provide clues to those at risk based on demographics despite not having any of the known risk factors. The study of this incidence of a disease is known as epidemiology.
Complications may arise in any diseases if left untreated or as it progresses and Parkinson’s disease is no different. These complications may be associated with PD itself as it gets worse, arise as a side effect from the medication being used for PD or at times arise separately due to the effects of Parkinson’s disease on various aspects of life and health (secondary). Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal but some of the complications could be and therefore proper care and vigilance is necessary. Identifying these complications as early as possible and seeking treatment where possible can greatly reduce the severity of the complication.
Although there is no specific test for Parkinson’s disease, recent advances in a diagnostic imaging technique may help doctors identify high risk patients even before the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. It may also serve as a tool to monitor disease progression. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease where there is a gradual progressive loss of dopamine nerve cells (dopaminergic neurons) in the brain. Currently Parkinson’s disease is identified by a clinical diagnosis where the medical history and clinical presentation allows a doctor to reach the diagnosis. However, the new diagnostic technique may allow for conclusive diagnosis and even help prevent misdiagnosis of the disease.
Epidemiological studies over the past 50 years have shown a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease among cigarette smokers. Although this apparent neuroprotective benefit of cigarette smoking has been known for a while, be it due to nicotine or the scores of other chemicals in cigarettes, the mechanism has been poorly understood and the therapeutic implications yet to be taken advantage of in the development of new Parkinson’s disease drugs. The main concern was whether this epidemiological finding was just a coincidence, which although unlikely, had not been clinically verified until the recent years. A new research study conducted at Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, in Paris, France has confirmed the potential benefit of nicotine in Parkinson’s disease by its action on a specific type of receptor on neurons.
Parkinson’s disease or PD is a neurodegenerative disease which means that nervous dysfunction is gradual and progressive. In other words, it develops slowly and gets worse over time. Most PD patients only discover the condition once signs and symptoms, usually those affecting movement, become obvious and affect daily functioning to a level that they need to seek medical advice. However, there are methods to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in the early stages when a person has no signs or symptoms (asymptomatic) or when it is too mild to be evident either to the patient or doctor.
These diagnostic tests should be conducted routinely on patients who are possibly at risk, like those with a familial history. Screening, however, is not as simple as with other conditions as familial Parkinson’s disease accounts for only a small number of cases. Other risk factors like age, gender and environmental factors are too arbitrary to define known risk groups who should undergo routine screening. Most cases of PD are due to unknown cause without clearly identified risk factors.
Stem cell therapy is growing in popularity globally particularly for neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. Clinics offering stem cell therapy are now accessible globally and with costant advancements in stem cell technology, there is significant hope that it will be the ‘magic bullet’ in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, to date there is no reliable evidence to suggest that any available stem cell therapy can cure Parkinson’s disease. This, however, does not mean that stem cell therapy cannot offer some improvement in the condition.
An exciting new discovery on a genetic mutation that appears to be associated with Parkinson’s disease once again brings hope to some PD patients. The gene, known as VPS35, was identified in a large Swiss family with a history of Parkinson’s disease. While this may not be applicable for every case of Parkinson’s disease, it does open up possibilities about further understanding the genetic mechanisms related to certain cases where there is a strong family history of PD.
Although in the early stages, the potential use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) holds tremendous possibilities for the future. A significant amount of research is still necessary and the practical application of such a treatment option is probably still a long way. However, the promise of acquiring an undifferentiated stem cell from the patient’s body and then stimulating differentiation into a nerve cell may make this sort of therapy one of the more exciting developments in recent years.
Significant research and several clinical trials have been done regarding the efficacy of gene therapy in Parkinson’s disease (PD). While many claims have been made involving numerous wonder cures for PD, gene therapy may hold the exciting possibility of not only delaying disease progression but also halting it completely.