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Monday, 13 February 2017 00:00

A basic overview of Parkinson’s disease

Mostly affecting the elderly, Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition meaning that symptoms are chronic and worsen over time. The cause of this disease is unknown and there is currently no cure, however there are surgeries, medication and helpful aids and devices available that can help to manage symptoms.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors of the legs, hands, arms, jaw and face, slowness of movement, impaired balance and coordination and stiffness of the limbs or trunk. The specific symptoms a sufferer may experience varies from person to person.

Additional symptoms may include speech changes, difficulty in writing, impaired sense of smell, changes in blood pressure and fatigue.

Diagnosis

There is no specific test available that will enable your neurologist to diagnose Parkinson’s. Rather, after careful examination of your symptoms, medical history and your neurological and physical condition, a series of tests will be run to rule out any other condition. These tests will mainly include blood tests and scans, such as an MRI, ultrasound, PET and SPECT scans.

It may sometimes take time to diagnose Parkinson’s. The neurologist may require follow up visits to monitor the condition over a period of time before diagnosing the disease.

Treatment

The common symptoms of Parkinson’s are mainly caused by the malfunction and death of the neurons in the brain responsible for dopamine production.

The most commonly prescribed and effective medication to help reduce symptoms is Carbidopa-levodopa. It is a natural chemical that passes into the brain and increases dopamine levels.

Doctors may also advise some lifestyle changes, such as participating in regular aerobic exercises, or receiving physical therapy focussing on stretching and balance.

Alternative treatments and therapy offer a supporting and mindful approach to the disease or illness and often include tai chi, acupuncture, meditation, and music, art or pet therapy.

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