Parkinson's Disease is a disease of the central nervous system that largely affects individuals over the age of 50 with men have a larger prevalence of Parkinson's over women at a ratio of approximately 3 to 2. Early onset of Parkinson's does occur, but it is a relatively rare occurrence. Parkinson's disease affects nearly 60,000 people a year, and there are currently over 10 million people living with the disease. Parkinson's Disease causes individuals to slowly lose muscle and motor function and is characterized by a gradual loss of control over a long period of time. Studies and treatments have been devised to alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and to increase the lifespan and quality of life of sufferers. Studies continue to better understand the root causes of Parkinson's Disease, and more advanced treatments are constantly being developed to better combat the disease.
The Important Questions About Parkinson’s Diseases
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?
A: Parkinson's Disease causes uncontrollable tremors in the hands or other extremities, even when at rest. As the disease progresses, it can be increasingly difficult to move major muscles, and simple movements such as walking may become noticeably slower and more laborious. Rigidness and stiffness can set in all over the body, making it more difficult to perform tasks such as speaking and writing and causing pain which can affect sleep. Parkinson's can also inhibit automatic movements such as blinking.
Q: What Causes Parkinson's Disease?
A: Parkinson's is caused by the death of certain cells in the brain. Why this loss occurs is not entirely clear to doctors and scientists; however, it is suggested that it may be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. It is currently estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of cases of Parkinson's is caused by genetic heritage, while a combination of environmental factors such as heavy metals, pesticides and bacteria may contribute to the development of the disease.
Q: What Are the Risk Factors for Parkinson's Disease?
A: Age is the most common risk factor for Parkinson's. After the age of 50, the rate of Parkinson's cases rises dramatically. Males are also more likely to develop Parkinson's than women. Studies in genetic contributions to the disease suggest that having Parkinson's in a direct family line could also raise the susceptibility to Parkinson's. Working in environments with high pesticide usage or other toxins has also been found to increase the risks of contracting the disease.
Q: What Are the Warning Signs of Parkinson's Disease?
A: The onset of Parkinson's disease is often characterized by slight trembling in the extremities that increases over time. This can also lead to unwanted movements, such as involuntary twitching or thrashing around while trying to sleep. Increased stiffness in the muscles which makes daily activities more difficult can also be a sign, especially if the stiffness refuses to abate after activity. Increased dizziness can also be a sign of Parkinson's. While most of these signs can easily be symptomatic of other causes, having several in conjunction can be cause for concern.
Q: What Treatments Are Available for Parkinson's Disease?
A: Medications are available which can help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy to help the body deal with decreased functionality. Speech therapy may also assist with redeveloping normal speech patterns. Deep brain stimulation surgery involves placing electrodes in the brain connected to a generator in the chest which can provide electrical impulses to the brain which can alleviate symptoms.
Parkinson's disease will likely continue to affect millions for years to come, but with treatment and care, seniors experiencing Parkinson's can continue to live long, productive lives.
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