Things to Know About Parkinson’s Disease
About 60,000 people living in the United Sates are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, and it’s expected that nearly 1 million Americans will be living with the disorder by 2020.
That’s well above the number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined!
Despite its prevalence, Parkinson’s disease remains clouded by numerous myths and misconceptions. That’s unfortunate, as a thorough understanding of this progressive neurological condition is necessary to ensure those afflicted receive the treatment and assistance needed to live a safe and fulfilled life.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressing, degenerative condition that affects the brain and central nervous system.
Although designated a movement disorder, unlike other neurological diseases in this class, Parkinson’s results from cell loss in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells, or neurons, in this region produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement.
Parkinson’s Disease is not Just a Disease of Old Age
While Parkinson’s disease usually affects people over the age of 50, the disorder can occur in younger patients, even those in their 30s and 40s. In fact, about 10% of sufferers are diagnosed with “Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease” before the age of 50.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
When most people think about Parkinson’s disease, they generally imagine the most common motor symptoms:
- Tremors (a form of rhythmic shaking)
- Stiffness or rigidity of the muscles
- Slowness of movement (called bradykinesia)
- Loss of balance
- Loss of facial expression
- Difficulty blinking
- Stooped posture
However, Parkinson’s can actually cause a range of non-motor symptoms, including:
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive impairment/dementia (usually in the later stages).
- Hallucinations/Psychosis (later stages)
For some people, the non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease are just as disabling as motor symptoms, and in some cases, even more so. It’s important that patients or their caregivers address all of their symptoms with their doctor to ensure they receive the appropriate care and treatment.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Most researchers believe that a combination of environmental and genetic factors play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease. For example, exposure to pesticides, head injury, and certain genetic mutations are known to increase risk. However, in the majority of cases, Parkinson’s has no discernable cause.
How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?
Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease – especially in the early stages – is difficult. First, there must be four main symptoms present before Parkinson’s is even considered.
The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends that anyone exhibiting these symptoms see a specific type of neurologist — a movement disorder specialist — who has received specialized training in the assessment and treatment of the disease.
Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are a number of effective treatments for slowing progression and easing symptoms.
Research has shown, for example, that exercise and physical therapy may actually encourage the development of new brain cells that could help reduce Parkinson’s symptoms.
Levodopa is the main drug therapy for Parkinson’s, and is prescribed as a dopamine replacement to control apparent motor symptoms in the later stages of the disease. Many people mistakenly believe that levodopa causes Parkinson’s disease to worsen. Fortunately, a large study put this misconception to rest decades ago, finding that treatment generally resulted in significant improvements. However, levodopa can become less effective as Parkinson’s progresses and may cause some patients to experience involuntary movements (dyskinesia).
Dopamine agonists such as (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip) and rotigotine (Neupro), and Apomorphine (Apokyn), mimic the action of dopamine. Side effects associated with these drugs include hallucinations, sleepiness and compulsive behaviors such as hypersexuality, gambling and eating.
Other possible treatments for Parkinson’s disease include MAO B inhibitors, Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, Anticholinergics, and Amantadine for early stage disease.
Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson’s
Some Parkinson’s patients have benefited from Deep Brain Stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted into a specific part of the brain and connected to a generator placed in the chest near the collarbone. The generator sends electrical pulses to the brain and may reduce Parkinson’s symptoms.
While many people believe Deep Brain Stimulation is experimental, the procedure has actually been used successfully for more than two decades.
Is Parkinson’s Disease Fatal?
Parkinson’s disease does not have to be fatal. In fact, it’s not even considered a direct killer, like stroke or heart attack. But because people with Parkinson’s disease are vulnerable to falls and infections, regular exercise, proper medical care, and a safe environment are key to ensuring quality of life, as well as longevity.
Depending on the stage of Parkinson’s disease, that could mean offering assistance with the tasks of daily life (bathing, dressing, meal preparation, etc.); installing ramps, grab bars, and other assistive aids in the home; and providing transportation to medical appointments and social outings.
While those with advanced Parkinson’s are usually no longer able to remain at home alone, caring for someone in the late stages of the disease can be physically and emotionally challenging for their loved ones. Fortunately, help easing the burden is often available through local and community organizations, including churches and synagogues, senior citizen centers, and Meals-on-Wheels.
About FCP Live-In Parkinson’s Disease Care Services
We have provided the ultimate solution for assisted Parkinson’s disease services since 1997. Our live-in Parkinson’s disease care services agency is committed to providing a unique and customized In-Home Parkinson’s disease care services approach to senior care with the goal of a lifestyle that provides enjoyment for the one in care, and families with peace of mind.
FCP Live-In is a Live-In Home Care company with over two decades of experience specializing in elderly care needs within the home. Our live-in caregiver staff provides an insurance policy of safe and supportive care, along with a 24-hour professional support system that starts with our direct care staff in the home and expands out to a multi-faceted corporate structure that is there for the client and the Live-in Caregiver at all times.