Understanding Parkinson’s Disease and FAQ

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known and it is a disease which gradually gets worse over time and affects thousands of people throughout the world. It is a disease which affects people of all races, gender and age, though it is more prevalent in those over the age of 65. It is a particularly debilitating disease with symptoms that affect the movement, gait, posture and speech in the sufferer.

Parkinson’s Disease Guide

Parkinson’s disease is the degeneration of an area deep in the brain called the basal ganglia, or to be more precise the substantia nigra. This area in the brain contains black pigmented cells which in a normal human being produce chemical transmitters, of which the most important is dopamine. These transmitters are chemical which pass on messages from one cell to the other, they either stimulate or inhabit as necessary.

When someone suffers from Parkinson’s disease the cells in the basal ganglia produce less dopamine and with dopamine being needed to transmit the messages to parts of the brain, spinal chord, muscles and nerves, symptoms of the disease show as rigidity and slowness of movement.

There is normally a balance between dopamine and another transmitter which is called acetylcholine, this is usually present in many areas of the brain and plays an important part in memory and recall.

In someone who has Parkinson’s dopamine is depleted and there is an excess of acetylcholine, this is why two of the most common types of medication used in the treatment of Parkinson’s is dopamine in the form of Levodopa and drugs which help to restore the balance of acetylcholine called anticholinergic in the form of benzhexol.

Parkinson’s Disease Frequently Asked Questions

It is always advisable to discuss Parkinson’s disease with a medical professional, particularly a specialist with in-depth knowledge of the disease. Further consultation with a psychiatrist is also advisable. Here are the answers to some of the common questions about Parkinson’s disease, beyond the articles covering the subject on this website.

  • Is Parkinson’s disease hereditary?

Parkinson’s disease is not generally thought to be a hereditary disease in that it doesn’t get passed from one generation to another. However, the risk of getting the disease if someone in your family has it is slightly increased. Genetic factors are linked this way just as heart disease and diabetes are, though the exact reason why genetic factors are increased remains unclear.

  • Do only old people get Parkinson’s disease?

While Parkinson’s disease is more prevalent in people aged over 60, 1 in 20 sufferers are under the age of 40 and 1 in 10 are under the age of 50. In only very rare instances does Parkinson’s disease affect anyone under the age of 25.

  • Can toxic substances cause Parkinson’s disease?

Some people who use drugs have become ill with symptoms similar to those which Parkinson’s disease sufferers get, however most of these were found to be brought on by poisonous by products contained in the drugs taken. By products very similar to pesticides were found to be used in drugs, however no substance has been positively identified as having been the cause of Parkinson’s disease.

  • Is there a cure for Parkinson’s disease?

At the present time there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease though there are now many treatments available for alleviating symptoms associated with the disease. Parkinson’s is a disease which does progress even with medication, medication will normally give the sufferer a rest period of around two years, however problems associated with the disease will begin to occur again.

  • Why does medication for Parkinson’s produce an on/off effect?

The rest period that is associated with Levodopa treatment and which will normally occur in about two years of using the medication causes what patients describe as on/off effects, a person will have adequate control of their illness for a period of time then suddenly switch to periods of immobility.

While the exact reason for this effect is not know it is thought that as the disease progresses the number of dopaminergic cells decrease so there are fewer cells in the brain to take the drug. Also because Levodopa is taken orally there are fluctuations in the plasma concentrations of the drug.

 

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