Parkinson’s or Morbus Parkinson is a previously incurable disease of the brain. Typical signs are a visible and severe deterioration in mobility and motor skills. In addition, a strong tremor is noticeable. Parkinson’s is a common neuronal disease and usually occurs between the ages of 55 and 65.
What is Parkinson’s?
A disease of the central nervous system is Parkinson’s or Parkinson’s disease. This mainly leads to disturbances of involuntary and voluntary movements. Furthermore, a sustained loss of nerve cells occurs in the brain. See ezhoushan for What does CD Stand for.
In particular, the black substance in the brain (so-called basal ganglia) is broken down. They are responsible for movement and controlling motor skills. In addition, the hormones noradrenaline and adrenaline, as well as the messenger substance dopamine, are formed in them.
As a result, Parkinson’s leads to a pronounced lack of exercise or even immobility. The lack of dopamine causes the tremors typical of Parkinson’s. Tension or stiffness of the muscles also occurs.
So far, the causes of Parkinson’s are not exactly clear. These unexplained causes are referred to in medicine as idiopathic Parkinson’s syndrome. Only the trigger is known so far. The lack of dopamine (in turn triggered by the death of the nerve cells) ultimately leads indirectly to the onset of the disease. Medical research has not yet been able to explain why the nerve cells begin to die off.
Nevertheless, there are already known causes of Parkinson’s. On the one hand, genetic or hereditary causes play a role. Parkinson’s disease often occurs by the age of 40. Other causes are environmental influences such as poisoning, manganese and carbon monoxide (produced when smoking).
Other diseases (metabolic disorders, brain tumors, trauma) can also be considered as causes. There is also a suspicion that some medications can trigger Parkinson’s disease. These include antihypertensive drugs and neuroleptics.
Symptoms, Ailments and Signs
The first symptoms of the disease can appear long before the typical symptoms without suspecting a connection to Parkinson’s. These early-onset disorders include, for example, a decrease in the ability to smell, muscle and joint pain, slowing down of routine everyday activities, visual disturbances, tiredness, exhaustion or depression.
However, since these phenomena can also be assigned to other diseases, it is difficult to associate them with Parkinson’s. Only in the further course, when the typical symptoms develop, can one recognize afterwards that there were already indications of the disease. The main symptoms come insidiously and often only appear on one side of the body at first. The movements slow down and reduce.
This can increase in the late stages to complete immobility. The facial expressions also seem frozen. The steps decrease; typical are the tripping steps of the patients. The muscles become stiff (rigor). When at rest, they often begin to tremble (tremor). The entire body becomes unstable over time and standing upright becomes difficult.
Those affected usually bend slightly forward and can only walk while shuffling. It is characterized by difficulty initiating a movement, requiring multiple attempts to get up or start walking. Other symptoms that can become noticeable are bladder weakness, constipation and increased salivation.
Diagnosis and course of the disease
Parkinson’s disease progresses relatively slowly. However, the process can differ from case to case. It is also crucial whether therapy or treatment is carried out or not. With good medical treatment, the quality of life and life expectancy in Parkinson’s can be significantly increased.
The further prognosis of the disease depends on the advanced stage of the disease. A complete cure for Parkinson’s is not yet possible. With proper treatment, mental and motor decline can be delayed or slowed for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, death in Parkinson’s disease is unfortunately inevitable. Those affected usually die of pneumonia or other respiratory infections as a result of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease does not always have to be associated with serious complications. With professional therapy, it is quite possible to live without the need for care for a longer period of time. In some cases, however, the affected persons suffer from serious consequences.
Swallowing disorders occur in three to four Parkinson’s patients during the disease. These in turn can cause malnutrition. There is also a risk that if swallowed, bacteria will enter the windpipe and subsequently cause pneumonia. This is one of the leading causes of death from Parkinson’s disease.
In addition, serious complications include akinetic crisis. In medicine, it is referred to when the Parkinson’s patient suddenly becomes completely unable to move. In such cases, immediate hospitalization of the patient is required. As a rule, the akinetic crisis presents only rarely. Late-stage patients are primarily affected. The complication is usually caused by other diseases such as pronounced feverish infections or surgical interventions.
Sometimes the interruption of drug treatment for Parkinson’s is the reason for the serious consequences. During the akinetic crisis, the patient suffers from severe muscle stiffness (rigor) and is unable to speak or swallow. Because he also no longer absorbs fluids, his body is at risk of dehydration. Other common effects of Parkinson’s disease are diffuse back pain, joint and muscle pain, sleep disorders and depression.
When should you go to the doctor?
If the typical early signs of Parkinson’s disease appear and do not go away within one to two weeks, a doctor should be consulted. Symptoms such as an unusual tremor, rigidity of the limbs or sudden movement disorders indicate the nervous disease. Persistent insomnia or mental health problems that appear to have no underlying cause must also be promptly examined by a doctor. The doctor can use imaging methods such as CT, MRI and positron emission tomography to make a suspected diagnosis.
If the therapy attempt with levodopa is successful, this indicates Parkinson’s disease. The patient is then referred to a specialist who can prescribe the necessary medication. If a Parkinson’s patient suffers from a stiffened muscle and can no longer swallow his pills, the relatives must call the emergency doctor. You should also seek medical advice if you are confused, delusional or hallucinating. The general practitioner or a neurologist is responsible. In addition, physiotherapists, surgeons and, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms, alternative medicine doctors are also involved in the treatment of the nervous disorder.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy of Parkinson’s is primarily based on early detection and treatment. Since Parkinson’s is currently not curable, the main goals of treatment are to be found in the area of general improvement in quality of life. The aim is to reduce mental, emotional and motor symptoms. An attempt is made to ensure that the person concerned can maintain their independence for as long as possible.
Therapies based on medication and physiotherapy (also physiotherapy) are used. But a change in diet can also have a supportive effect. The drugs (levodopa and dopamine agonists) are designed to compensate for the lack of dopamine. Deep brain stimulation with high frequency can also be used for therapy. This fairly new procedure is intended to stimulate and excite the affected brain regions without destroying nerve cells. However, only the symptoms are treated here and the actual Parkinson’s disease is not cured.
For the future, however, there could be therapy methods based on stem cell transplantation (stem cell therapy), so that the dead nerve cells are replaced by new and cultivated cells. A low-fat diet, plenty of fluids to drink and sufficient exercise, such as hiking and swimming, have proven to be supportive.
The nature of Parkinson’s disease means that follow-up care cannot prevent recurrence. This objective is commonly known in tumors. Parkinson’s, on the other hand, cannot be cured. Rather, the symptoms progress slowly.
Scheduled examinations after a diagnosis aim to stop complications and enable the patient to lead a symptom-free life. As a result, long-term treatment is necessary, the extent of which depends on the respective complaints. Doctor and patient agree on the examination rhythm.
The first part of the aftercare is an intensive discussion about existing complaints. A specific physical examination is then carried out. If the patient is in an advanced stage, the typical signs can often be seen at first glance. Some doctors order neuropsychological tests from time to time.
EEG and positron emission tomography (PET) are also informative. With the last method, the metabolic activities of the nerve cells can be mapped. In addition, drugs play an important role in therapy. By taking them, patients usually prevent a lack of dopamine.
Follow-up care includes regular treatments with physiotherapists, speech therapists and psychologists. The doctor prescribes these treatments if there are restrictions in movement, breathing or articulation as well as mental recovery.
Outlook & Forecast
Parkinson’s now offers a relatively good prognosis. Although the disease is progressive, i.e. with increasing symptoms, it can be treated well with modern medication and therapy measures. Forms of therapy such as brain wave stimulation or stem cell therapy could further improve the prognosis in the future. Parkinson’s patients are currently dependent on painkillers and other medications. They also need support in everyday life and are no longer allowed to carry out various activities such as driving a car. All of these things affect the quality of life.
There is no prospect of a symptom-free life. However, those affected can live with the disease for several decades. The prognosis depends on the stage at which the disease is diagnosed and on the constitution of the patient. Young people can quickly overcome strenuous therapies, but they also have to live with the disease for many years and accept increasing losses over the course of their lives.
Basically, an early start of therapy is important. The prognosis is made by the responsible neurologist or another specialist. It must be regularly adapted to the current state of health of the patient. In addition to the prognosis, the patient is given comprehensive advice and informed about current treatment methods.
You can do that yourself
Even small changes in everyday life can help to maintain the quality of life in Parkinson’s disease for a long time. A safe living area reduces the risk of falling and injury: classic tripping hazards are carpets, doorsteps and loose cables, handrails should be attached to stairs. Grab handles are particularly important in the bathroom next to the bathtub, shower and toilet, and non-slip rubber mats ensure a secure footing.
Shower stools, a raised toilet and, if necessary, a height-adjustable washbasin simplify daily personal hygiene. Clothing with Velcro and zippers is better suited to being undressed and put on by yourself than clothing that has to be buttoned. If tying your shoes is difficult, slippers are a good alternative. A long shoehorn makes it easier to slip on.
For use in the household, retailers have a large number of other aids available, such as special cutlery, cap openers and drinking aids. In order to maintain the highest possible mobility and coordination ability, gymnastic exercises should be carried out daily. Special exercises train facial expressions, gestures and the fine motor skills of the hands.
A balanced diet provides the body with all the vital substances it needs and helps to maintain body weight. Parkinson’s patients should take their time eating and drinking, chewing food well and keeping their head and body upright. Thorough oral hygiene prevents tooth damage, bad breath and inflammation caused by leftover food.