Parkinson’s: What is it?
Parkinson’s disease deals with the nerve cells in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is chemical that is produced in your body that is responsible for connecting the neurons to the muscles. Essentially, the chemicals in your body that are the middle men for telling the muscles what the brain wants them to do become less and less. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease; however it is a slow progression. This means that any small symptoms will eventually get worse. This is because eventually less and less dopamine will be produced and the neurons won’t be able to reach the muscles in the body to create any voluntary or conscious movement. This means moving an arm or a leg. As the disease gets worse it moves to the unconscious movement, such as breathing.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are vast. Because it is a slow progressing disease, the symptoms can vary immensely from patient to patient. It is anything that has to do with the loss of muscle control. As research progresses, doctors are learning that there are symptoms that involve motor skills but there are also those that are non-motor symptoms.
Early Symptoms can be as small as difficulty getting off of couches or out of chairs, noticing your handwriting getting smaller. You may notice their expressions becoming more and more serious and their posture may be slightly stooped. All of these can always be the cause of other reasons as well; it takes most of these signs all together to suspect Parkinson’s disease. So be sure to check with a practitioner if you notice any of these changes.
The main symptoms as the disease progresses are as followed;
A tremor is generally an early sign for most but not always a Parkinson’s patient. This tremor can start small and generally when the limb in question is at rest. This meaning it can start as a small shake in the hand or foot when it is not moving, but then go away once you start moving the affected limb. As the disease progresses it will change from that small shake when motionless, to a constant shake whether you are moving or not.
Slowness of Movement (Bradykinesia):
Slowness of movement in Parkinson’s patients is very different than the regular slowing down of the body that comes with old age. Bradykinesia is when the individual attempts to move but voluntary movement is delayed. This can be in the limbs but also in the face, this is what causes the “serious face” where the individual may always carry a serious facial expression.
Impaired balance usually starts with a hunch, as though the person is almost caving in on themselves. This can cause the center of balance to be more and more off which will lead to imbalance issues.
This is anything from muscle stiffness to pain and cramping in the muscles. Rigidity can be simply that the muscles won’t relax. This will worsen with age, muscles won’t relax at all and cramps will happen more often due to the stiffness in muscles.
Non – Motor Symptoms:
These vary from person to person but these can be anywhere from mental changes to changes in the body. Mentally, depression, confusion and memory problems can all occur, sometimes leading to dementia. Problems keeping still can lead to a restless sleep. This will eventually result in daytime fatigue from lack of sleep and the fact that your muscles are working much harder. Speech generally gets harder, due to loss of control of the tongue and lips, resulting in slurred speech or changes in the voice.
What you can do
There are many ways that you can help slow the progression of the disease as well as ways to ease the symptoms that are currently present. Prescription medication is available now, although there is no cure, there are many different medications to help ease symptoms. There are surgical options as well. Exercise is wildly important due to the fact that it helps, and it can be free.
Exercising daily, or at least three to four times a week will help improve your coordination and tremor. Biking, going on a treadmill or even just going for a walk and greatly improve coordination and help keep your limbs more limber to help prevent muscle cramps and the slowing of muscles. Stretching and balancing exercises include yoga or specified physical therapy to work on keeping your muscles loose. Finally speech therapy can help keep the muscles in the face and tongue in shape.
There are a few medications you can take now for Parkinson’s depending on how advance the disease it. The most effective medication is one that is two natural chemicals. The first chemical (levodopa) is a chemical that goes through the brain and creates dopamine. However, this chemical alone, when administered risks the chance of converting into dopamine before it reaches the brain. This is why it is mixed with a second chemical (Lodosyn) which prevents the levodopa from converting too early. This way it can make it to the brain and to the muscles. This medication can generally be administered straight into the small intestines or orally. There are other medications that mimic what dopamine is supposed to do or that stops the inhibitors from breaking down the dopamine. Finally, some surgeries are available that stimulates the brain, as well as clinical trials to try and find more solutions to the disease.
Help is on the way!
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder and unfortunately doctors have not found a cure, yet. However, there are many treatments that you can receive to help reduce pain. Parkinson’s is a slow progressive disorder, which means the life expectancy of someone with Parkinson’s is often similar to a regular person.
If you are worried about the financial side that this disease will bring there is help along the way. There are many different resources that provide medicare plans specifically for Parkinson’s. Texas Medicare Plan is a perfect example of a resource that everyone has access through. They will provide you with “the ultimate parkinsons medicare guide”, which will give you the full plan for a Parkinson’s patient. This includes what the disease is and what the diagnosis process is as well as treatment – both prescription and surgical options. Next it will take you into how Medicare can help you. It will tell you the coverage for diagnosis and treatment options. What kind of prescriptions it will cover and then take you through plans available to you. Finally, they will even let you know what it doesn’t cost, helping with full transparency. There are many more sites such as “Family Assets“ which discuss long term care options for Parkinson’s as well.
Limited mobility and lack of muscle control can change daily tasks into daily struggles. Adaptive clothing can help ease the pain of dressing. Apparel with adaptations includes independent dressing solutions as well as assisted dressing solutions depending on how severe the symptoms are. Open side pants and magnetic tops are options in eliminating the struggle of buttoning up shirts or pants. Adaptive open-back wear is designed for the purpose of eliminating having to put anything over the head, and allows individual to be dressed from a seating or lying down position. To learn more about adaptive clothing, read “what is adaptive clothing“ to find what types of adaptations you need.
Parkinson’s disease will need to be accompanied by life style changes. But these changes need to be brought into your life with positivity and adaptations need to be taken with strength. Whether you have developed parkinson’s or you know someone who has, look for silver linings, and give them the strength they need to fight it and continue with a healthy life.