Parkinsonism is a neurological disorder that affects the movement of the body. It is named after James Parkinson, the British physician who first described the symptoms of the disease in 1817 as Shaking Palsy. Parkinsonism is characterized by the progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, resulting in tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination and balance.
Are Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease the same?
The most common type of Parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, which affects approximately one percent of people over the age of 60. Other types of Parkinsonism include Atypical Parkinsonism like Multiple System Atrophy, Progressive supranuclear palsy, Corticobasal degeneration.Vascular Parkinsonism and Secondary Parkinsonism.
The exact cause of Parkinsonism is not fully understood, but researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role. In some cases, Parkinsonism may be caused by exposure to toxins, such as pesticides or certain metals.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Symptoms of Parkinsonism typically begin with mild tremors in one hand or arm and may progress to affect both sides of the body over years. Other common symptoms include stiffness in the limbs, slowness of movement and thought, difficulty with balance and coordination, and a shuffling gait.
What are the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is often associated with motor symptoms, such as tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). However, there are also many non-motor symptoms that can occur, some of which may appear before motor symptoms develop. Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include
» Sleep disorders: Many people with Parkinson’s disease experience sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
» Depression and anxiety: Depression and anxiety are common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
» Cognitive changes: Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience cognitive changes, such as difficulty with memory, attention, and executive function.
» Loss of sense of smell: Loss of sense of smell is a common early symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
» Constipation: Constipation is a common non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
» Fatigue: Fatigue is a common non-motor symptom that can impact the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s disease.
» Urinary problems: Urinary problems, such as urgency, frequency, and incontinence, are common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
» Sexual dysfunction: Sexual dysfunction, such as decreased libido and erectile dysfunction, can occur in people with Parkinson’s disease.
It is important to discuss any non-motor symptoms with a healthcare professional, as they can impact the quality of life and may require specific management strategies.
Treatment of Parkinson’s disease
There are currently a variety of treatments that can help manage its symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment plans for Parkinson’s disease are often individualized and may include:
Medications: There are several types of medications that can be used to increase dopamine levels in the brain, such as Levodopa, dopamine agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, and COMT inhibitors.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS): This surgical procedure involves implanting a device in the brain that sends electrical signals to help control tremors and other symptoms.
Physical therapy: Exercise and physical therapy can help improve mobility, strength, balance, and coordination.
Speech therapy: Speech therapy can help improve speech and swallowing difficulties.
Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help develop strategies to manage daily activities and improve independence.
Lifestyle modifications: A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques can also help manage symptoms.
The choice of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, the age and overall health of the patient, and other individual factors. It is important to work closely with a healthcare professional to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs and goals of the patient.
Role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease?
Exercise can play an important role in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Regular physical activity can help improve mobility, balance, strength, flexibility, and overall quality of life. Here are some specific benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease:
» Improved mobility: Exercise can help improve gait, balance, and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and improve mobility.
» Reduced stiffness: Exercise can help reduce muscle stiffness and improve range of motion.
» Improved cardiovascular health: Exercise can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of other health conditions.
» Improved mood: Exercise can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
» Increased neuroplasticity: Some studies suggest that exercise may help promote neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and change.
It is important to work with a physiotherapist to develop an exercise plan that is safe and appropriate for the individual’s specific needs and abilities. Some recommended types of exercise for Parkinson’s disease include aerobic exercise, strength training, balance and coordination exercises, and stretching.
Role of diet in Parkinson’s disease?
» Eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
» Avoid excessive protein intake and spread protein consumption throughout the day.
» Consider a Mediterranean-style diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats.
» Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and fluids.
» Consider taking supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids as per a Neurologist’s opinion if needed
» Work with a Dietician to develop an individualized diet plan for each Parkinson’s disease patient
World Parkinson’s Day is observed on April 11 every year to create awareness about Parkinson’s disease .This year Theme of World Parkinson’s day is #Take 6 for Parkinson’s Disease, means every 6 minutes one new person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the world. Currently with proper medications, diet and exercise, most of the Parkinson’s disease patients can lead a near normal life without much difficulty.
(Dr. Syamlal S is Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, KIMSHEALTH, Thiruvananthapuram)