Condition: Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder resulting from the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce a substance called dopamine.
Background: The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. One in every 800 individuals develops the condition, which is more common in men than in women.
Risk Factors: Parkinson’s disease increases with age, with 90% of patients above 45 years of age, and may be related to genetic mutations. Exercise throughout adulthood may reduce a person’s risk.
History and Symptoms: Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin on one side of the body, with diminished fine motor control, or reduced foot or arm movement. Other symptoms include tremors, stiffness, posture imbalance, difficulty swallowing, constipation and urinary incontinence. Patients may experience slower movement and speech, fatigue, forgetfulness, loss of smell, depression, and sleep disorders. Symptoms of late-stage Parkinson’s disease include an expressionless face, soft voice and stooped posture, and an inability to walk.
Physical Exam: Healthcare providers conduct thorough physical exams, noting specific signs and symptoms that are seen in Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnostic Process: Diagnostic tests may include imaging studies such as an MRI scans to evaluate the extent of the disease. Sleep studies, swallowing studies and psychological testing also can assess the severity of the condition.
Rehab Management: Several medications are available to manage symptoms, such as tremors and stiffness, in the condition’s early stages. Balance training, stretching and strengthening exercises, and aerobic activity are utilized to help to maintain a patient’s function. Deep brain stimulation, which is a surgical procedure, also may relieve symptoms
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Several organizations can provide information to patients and caregivers about Parkinson’s disease and its progression. Support groups can also offer assistance and education.