Uncovering Parkinson’s Disease: How to understand signs of Parkinson’s disease at an early age?
Parkinson’s disease is progressive neurodegenerative condition that causes loss in brain cell functioning. Parkinson’s disease was first discovered in 1817, at which point it was described as “shaky paralysis” in the literature. Now, it is referred to as a slow-progressing movement disorder with loss of brain cell functioning. Parkinson’s disease is more common among men than women.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
The substantia nigra is a part of the human brain which couses densely packed dopamine-producing cells. Dopamine, a natural chemical released in these areas, facilitates communication between brain regions known as the striatum. This communication is what allows people to control their motion.
Dopamine production becomes insufficient when dopamine cell numbers reduce significantly, resulting in non-rhythmic, disorganized, unsteady, and jagged movements. All of these are common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Individuals with a history of Parkinson’s disease are at a higher risk for developing the disease, compared to people without a family history of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease causes
It is likely that a combination between genetic and non-genetic factors contributes to a person's developmental fate when it comes to Parkinson’s disease. There are common risk factors associated with the onset and severity of Parkinson’s disease, some of which include:
- Having a Parkinson’s disease family history
- Water consumption in rural areas, farms, and wells
- Exposure to pesticides
- Male gender, Caucasian race
- Head trauma
- High iron and manganese intake in the diet
- Consumption of animal fats with food
- Physical and mental exhaustion and stress
At what age do Parkinson’s symptoms start?
Although Parkinson’s disease is generally seen in people over the age of 60, experts state that the age of onset can vary between 20 and 50 in 5 to 10 percent of patients. When Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed before the age of 50, physicians usually look into genetic factors that could have an impact on the patient.
The Four Most Common Motor Parkinson Disease Symptoms are:
- Tremors, often known as shaking.
- Bradykinesia, which is the clinical term for “slow movement.”
- Rigidity or stiffness in the arms, legs, or trunk.
- Postural instability, which refers to problems with balance and the risk of falling.
The most common early signs of Parkinson’s disease include a unilateral tremor in the hand or fingers at rest, and a lack of arm swing when walking. In other cases, tremors could begin in the foot, jaw, or tongue. Another precursor to Parkinson’s disease is slow movement without a tremor. A person who may be later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may also notice a loss of writing ability, postural instability, and trouble with making gestures.
The Differences Between Drug Therapies and Surgeries As Treatment Options
The treatment journey starts with a thorough understanding of the symptoms to diagnose Parkinson's disease. However, the treatment plan pretty much depends on the disease stage. Physicians usually start with prescribing drugs to control the severity of the symptoms and controlling the tremors as much as possible later, it's time to find the drugs that give the best responsive effect based on your condition.
Deep brain stimulation is a safe and effective treatment, physicians recommend it when the medication is not sufficiently controlling the symptoms. The surgical option always comes second especially when PA is early diagnosed.
Signs of Parkinson’s disease at an early age
Early-onset Parkinson’s disease affects people under the age of 50. The majority of people with idiopathic or typical Parkinson’s Disease show symptoms when they are 50 years and older.
Early-onset Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in the same way as late-onset Parkinson’s disease, beginning with assessing the four primary motor symptoms listed above. A person with Parkinson’s disease may also experience non-motor symptoms related to the disease, such as depression, sleep disorders, memory and cognitive abnormalities, diarrhea, or urinary incontinence.
People with early-onset Parkinson's disease generally experience slower progression of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, these individuals have also reported experiencing greater side effects from dopaminergic drugs, and more dystonias (cramping and unusual postures) such as foot arching.
Diagnosis of Parkinson disease
A physician will diagnose someone with Parkinson’s disease after recording a history of their symptoms, and completing a physical and/or neurological examination. However, sometimes additional tests including MRIs. blood tests, and lumbar punctures must be performed in order to confirm the diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive test that can confirm early-onset Parkinson’s disease. However, in 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized DaTscan Imaging, which has been fundamental in examining images of the brain’s dopamine system.
A DaTscan is performed using a single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scanner, similar to an MRI scanner, and a little dose of a radioactive medication.
Parkinson disease symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease:
Stage 1: Signs and symptoms are minor and unilateral. It does not affect one’s ability to work. Tremors in one limb are common. Only the patient’s relatives are aware of the changes in mimic, posture, and movements.
Stage 2: At this point, symptoms might be noticeable on both sides. Walking and posture are both impacted.
Stage 3: There is significant weakening of spinal motions, as well as reduced balance. Some people have reported an increase in falling-down during this stage. There are moderate diffuse dysfunctions evident.
Stage 4: At this time, the condition is severe. Most patients can walk, but have difficulties doing so. Motions become sluggish and rigid. Shivering may be less intense than in earlier phases. This group of patients may be reliant on a caregiver in order to carry out every-day activities.
Stage 5: The patient is unable to function without a caregiver, and will likely spend majority of their time in bed, or in a wheelchair.
Parkinson’s disease Treatment Methods
Drug therapy is the first line of treatment for Parkinson’s disease. The dopamine generation deficit in the brain is bridged by treatment with medication. Medications can help ease existing symptoms, but they can not stop the condition from progressing. As a result, we cannot say there is a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
The treatment technique is chosen based on the patient’s age, symptoms, and disease stage.
This way, the symptoms are alleviated, and the disease’s course is halted. An alternative option is surgical therapy, which can be considered if a persons condition does not improve with drug therapy, or if the drugs are causing other unwanted side effects.
There are two options for surgical treatment: a brain pacemaker (deep brain stimulation) or brain lesion surgery (ablative techniques).
The brain pacemaker approach has the potential to reduce the rate of progression of Parkinson’s disease and improve a person’s every-day life.
How to make life easier for people with Parkinson’s disease?
- Parkinson support solutions
- Practice speaking skills by having a conversation or singing.
- For non-speaking patients, alphabet, word, and picture cards are helpful.
- The use of kitchen tools made of unbreakable materials, such as forks and knives.
- Carpets and rugs should be taken off the floor.
- Door thresholds, if any, should be removed.
- A stool placed in front of the sink enables patients to sit.
- Special handles should be mounted to the bathroom and toilet walls.
- Straws can be used when drinking beverages.
- Hand tremor devices, which are wrist-worn wearables that help patients with mild to severe hand tremors to do daily activities with steady hands.