What do Muhammad Ali, Ray Kennedy, Jansher Khan, Basil D’Oliveira, Deborah Kerr and Michael J. Fox have in common? You guessed it right – they all have/had Parkinson’s disease.
A disturbing ailment that essentially affects your movement, Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder in the nervous system and usually affects people who are over 60 years of age. However, the onset of Parkinson’s at an early age is also not unheard of.
Christened after Dr. James Parkinson, who described the disease as ‘shaking palsy’ back in 1817, the awareness about Parkinson’s is limited to those who have seen or experienced this condition firsthand, especially in India. It is important that you learn everything you can about it so you can be prepared in the unfortunate circumstances of your elders getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s and even take preventive measures early.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
When the nerve cells in your brain (called neurons) degenerate or die, the production of a chemical called dopamine decreases or stops. A decrease in dopamine levels can lead to abnormal functioning of the brain, thus leading to Parkinson’s disease.
Individuals can be at a risk of Parkinson’s if:
1.They are 60 years old or more
2.They have a family history of the disease
3.They are exposed to toxins such as pesticides or herbicides
On average, the number of men likely to develop the disease is higher than the number of women, so your gender could also be a factor in this case.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s
Tremors in one hand, stiffness and slowing down of natural movements are early signs that a person may be developing Parkinson’s disease.
- Tremors: An unusual tremor in the hand or fingers even while you are resting is one of the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s.
- Stiffness: Muscle rigidity or contraction is another sign and can occur in any body part, limiting your movement and causing pain.
- Posture impairment: Parkinson’s can result in body balancing problems and even cause you to stoop.
- Bradykinesia: Gradually, body movements slow down and you might notice a general decrease in the pace at which you can complete mundane tasks like writing, picking up things, opening doors, etc.
- Natural movement impairment: Unconscious movements like blinking your eyes or swinging your arms while walking may suddenly become difficult.
- Speech impairment: A change in your speech (tone, emotion, volume, pitch, and clarity) could also point towards the development of Parkinson’s disease.
In the initial stages, these symptoms might seem harmless (or a byproduct of ageing), but in the long term, they can worsen and cause complications like the ones mentioned below:
- Decrease in the ability to think: Imagine developing a condition that hampers your cognitive abilities! Parkinson’s can result in dementia as well, a condition that is not responsive to any medication.
- Depression: Emotional changes are common amongst people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Anxiety, fear, lethargy, and loss of motivation are some common byproducts of this condition. However, therapy and medication can help cure these symptoms.
- Sleep disorders: Waking up at odd hours, sleeping during the day and being unable to maintain the body’s natural sleep clock is a common problem for people with Parkinson’s.
- Sexual dysfunctionality: You may notice a gradual drop in sexual desire or a decline in performance, too.
- Lethargy: Individuals with Parkinson’s may experience fatigue and loss of energy, thus leading them to become lethargic.
- Difficulty to chew or swallow: People may experience the inability to eat properly or the accumulation of saliva in the mouth, thus causing drooling.
- Stomach and bladder problems: The inability to control urine or urinate properly and slow digestion can lead to a number of bladder control issues and constipation.
Parkinson’s patients also experience sudden changes in blood pressure, loss of senses and dizziness. While there may be certain other major or minor changes in behaviour and movements, the aforementioned ones are the most common.
Prevention of Parkinson’s disease
To be honest, there are no proven ways that guarantee the treatment or prevention of this condition. However, certain studies and researchers claim that the following things can help prevent Parkinson’s to a certain extent.
Regular aerobic exercises, according to research, can help keep Parkinson’s at bay. We recommend indulging in regular exercise and sporting activities in any case, since they help you stay fit, flexible and strong.
2. Avoiding caffeine
Colas, tea, and coffee consumption can heighten the risk of developing Parkinson’s, so it is best to stay off caffeinated drinks or keep your intake to a bare minimum.
3. Consuming curcumin
Scientists at Michigan State University claim that this ingredient that you can find in turmeric (haldi) can play a significant role in the prevention of the disease.
4. Drinking green tea
Ask any health-and-diet freak and they will give you a long list of the benefits of green tea. Some studies suggest that consuming green tea can also lower the risk of Parkinson’s.
A commonly asked question is whether Parkinson’s disease is life-threatening. While it is not fatal in nature, the condition can make life really difficult, especially in the later stages.
The key to diagnosing Parkinson’s disease early is looking out for early signs and symptoms and visiting an experienced specialist for advice. While there is no cure, there are certain ways and therapies that can help delay the progression of the disease from bad to worse. Consult a doctor to understand what kind of therapies, medications and treatment methods can be employed to deal with some of the symptoms or byproducts of Parkinson’s disease.
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