By Laurence Schubert APAM
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is progressive neurological condition that results in death to cells in the brain that modulate movement and mood. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals around the brain. In patients with PD, the neurotransmitter that creates dopamine begins to die. Dopamine is critical for smooth muscle cell movement and affects other body systems such as your sense of smell, bowel, thinking and mood.
What is the progression for Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive illness, meaning it is unable to be curried and is likely to worsen over time. The good news is that after years of research along with tested treatment options, the condition can be slowed down significantly with appropriate intervention. Each person will be affected differently and it is generally unknown why the condition progresses quicker or slower in some people.
What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease symptoms are generally divided into two categories; motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms. PD is generally considered a movement disorder but it is important to be aware that non-motor symptoms play a big part is PD.
Motor symptoms: tremor, muscle rigidity, freezing, postural instability and bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
Non-motor symptoms: constipation, dementia, depression & anxiety, drooling, fatigue, low BP, pain, psychosis, sexual problems, sleep problems, urinary problems and problems with processing memory or thoughts.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is considered “idiopathic”, meaning the cause of the disease is unknown. It is likely that the cause of PD differs from one person to the next. It is said to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers have identified a small number of causal genes that increase the risk of acquiring PD. However, having these genes does not guarantee that you will get PD. Environmental factors that may increase your risk include head trauma and exposure to toxic chemicals. One thing is for sure, the older you get the more at risk you are of developing PD.
What are the treatments for Parkinson’s Disease?
Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is dependent on the individual. There is no universal treatment option or medication for this illness. Each patient should be assessed by their doctor and treatment should focus on the presenting symptoms of the patient. For example, one of the most commonly prescribed medications is levadopa. It absorbed in the intestine and the brain converts it into dopamine (the missing neurotransmitter in PD patients). Levadopa is effective for PD patients with mild to moderate symptoms. As long term use continues, further complications can arise.
How can your Physiotherapist help patients with Parkinson’s Disease?
EXERCISE. There is now an increasingly large volume of evidence that claims exercise for PD patients is critical in management of this disease. Exercise can not only slow down the progression of the disease but has also shown to improve PD symptoms! Exercise should generally consist of aerobic, resistance, flexibility and balance components. Your physiotherapist can devise an individualised plan that will be most effective for you. Specific exercise guidelines are available online, so please let us know if you’d like more information regarding the guidelines.
DID YOU KNOW: 30% of diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease patients do not have a resting tremor.