Parkinson's Disease (PD), is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects the movement of the body. It is a result of the malfunction or loss of neurons (critical nerve cells) in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical produced by dying neurons, as the disease progresses the level of dopamine production decreases. It is this reduction in dopamine production that invariably affects the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. 

The cause for the disease has not been established yet but nearly 1 million people in the U.S. alone are living with Parkinson's disease, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation

The early signs of Parkinson's Disease include tremors or shaking of the limbs; slowed body movements like while walking or getting up from the seat; speech problems such as slurring, speaking softly or quickly; blank expressions or masked face; rigidity in the joints and muscle stiffness; change in handwriting; stooped posture or balance problems; loss of smell; constipation; dizziness and fainting. The behavioral problems like depression, dementia or sleep disorders arise in the progressed stages of the disease.

Parkinson's can be detected early through various signs and symptoms that a person exhibits. Having one of these symptoms doesn't necessarily indicate Parkinson's. However, exhibiting more than one of these symptoms should be taken seriously and the same should be consulted with a doctor.

It is advised that one should not neglect these signs and symptoms, as early detection and treatment could greatly mean a difference to a patient's quality of life.

There is no known cure for treating Parkinson's disease; however, there are varied options to treat and manage the symptoms such as intake of proper medications, therapies, surgery and living a healthy lifestyle with nutritious diet and regular exercise. These steps can considerably help a patient live through as normally as possible.

Researchers have suggested building a healthy diet and eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and fiber-rich food. Reduction in intake of red meat and dairy products may also provide some protection against Parkinson's as well.

There are several therapies that make living with Parkinson's disease much easier, and it can help dealing with the symptoms on a regular basis. Some of these therapies include physiotherapy for muscle stiffness; occupational therapy to help deal with basic day to day functionalities; speech and language therapy to enhance the speech; and cognitive behavioral therapy which is a type of a counseling therapy.

When it comes to medication, one of the most effective drugs for PD is apparently Levodopa, which is a natural chemical that gets converted into dopamine for the nerve cells in the brain. Continuous usage of this drug over the period of time makes it less effective as the body gets used to, and hence immune to, the chemical composition of the drug.

There are other drugs available too for the treatment, like Dopamine agonists, Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitors, Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, Anticholinergic and Amantadine, which the doctors prescribe depending and pertaining to a particular individual's medical condition.

In certain cases, the medicines are not effective enough to regulate the condition. In such situations, the doctor may suggest a surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation, during which a pulse generator (similar to a pacemaker) is implanted into the chest wall, which in turn stimulates the part of the brain that is affected by Parkinson's disease. 

Photo: Kiran Foster | Flickr 

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