Friday, November 27, 2020

Parkinson’s Disease Guide to Symptoms, Causes & Treatments


Having been identified by an English physician named James Parkinson and described in an essay in 1817, Parkinson’s disease is often called Parkinson disease or PD and it is a degenerative rather than an infectious disease of the central nervous system of the brain.  Parkinson’s disease is also a chronic and progressive disease that impairs the gross and the fine motor skills (learned movements), speech as well as other functions of the body.

Parkinson’s disease is in itself the most prevalent cause for a chronic and progressive syndrome known as Parkinsonism which is characterized by tremors, bradykinesa, imbalance and postural instability.  For that reason, Parkinson’s disease is also known as primary Parkinsonism or as the idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.

Other similar disorders that belong to a group of diseases that is called Parkinson-plus include:  multiples system atrophy (MSM), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).  These Parkinson-plus diseases are differentiated from Parkinson’s disease by their more rapid progression at earlier stages and by the severity of their symptoms.

Most Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Being part of a group of medical conditions known as movement disorders, the advancement of Parkinson’s disease is slow and its tell tale signs are quite inconspicuous in the beginning stages.  When the symptoms finally appear they are mild at first but will worsen progressively over time.  The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by lowered production of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which is formed within the dopaminergic neurons of the brain.  This, in turn, reduces stimulation of the motor cortex by the basal ganglia.

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are: tremors of the limbs when they are at rest; rigidity of the muscles; painful contractions of muscles in lower limbs; slowing and freezing of physical movements (bradykinesia); in the more severe case, physical movements are completely lost (akinesia); loss of facial expressions (hypomimia) with infrequent blinking of the eyes; arms stop swing when walking and feet shuffle; turning with the upper body remaining rigid and immobile; acquiring a forward stoop which leads to frequent falls; continuous drooling and difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia); inability to sit still (akathisia); and speech becomes softer, monotonic and markedly mumbled.

The secondary symptoms during the more advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease usually lead to severe dysfunction in cognitive thought processes and language skills which are made evident by slow reaction time, difficulties in performing common tasks and experiencing dementia and loss of memory along with hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

Causes and Risks of Parkinson’s Disease

Although there are those in the medical field who believe that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by genetic mutations, head traumas, environmental toxins, drugs, and seriously decreased oxygen levels in the cerebral brain (anoxia); most still consider Parkinson’s to be idiopathic or having no known cause.

Risk factors of the disease have been historically attributed to:

1/Age.  Parkinson’s disease most frequently begins to develop in the late 50s or older and its propensity increases proportionately with increased age.  It is exceedingly unusual to see it in younger individuals.

2/ Heredity.  Individuals who have close relatives with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to develop it although the risk is below five percent.

3/ Gender.  Men are more prone to developing Parkinson’s disease than are women.

4/ Environmental Toxins.  Prolonged and continual exposure to herbicides and pesticides is known to increase the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

With a well balanced drug routine and a few lifestyle changes, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be kept in check.  Medications replace the deficient dopamine in the brain and help with walking, movements and tremors.  The most popular among the available medications are: levodopa which goes directly into the brain and converts to dopamine, the dopamine agonists drugs imitate the functions of dopamine, MAO B inhibitors protect dopamine from breaking down, anticholinergics control tremors, and antivirals alleviate the mild early symptoms of the disease.

In the most extreme and advanced cases and where medications are inadequate, brain surgery may be prescribed.  This involves the implantation of an electrode to stimulate that part of the brain which controls movements.

Exercise and physical therapy is highly recommended to Parkinson’s disease patients.  This will improve their muscle strength and tone, increase their mobility and range of motion as well as gain them more confidence.  Equally important is a well balanced diet of plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.


  1. Roy

    Over the last couple of years that I’ve been doing these weekly newsletters, I’ve certainly spent a fair amount of time discussing the cardiovascular and antioxidant benefits of Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). I had no immediate plans of doing another newsletter on this nutrient, but a report in the medical literature out this week compels me to do so. As a matter of fact, earlier this evening I had received a call from one of my patients who had seen the article, asking me about this nutritional supplement. As a neurologist in practice almost 20 years I have probably treated a thousand patients with Parkinson’s disease.

    Parkinson’s disease is a common and potentially devastating neurological disorder that occurs with aging. Recent research indicates that at around age 40 people start to lose brain cells in an area of the brain that controls movement. With each decade after age 40 they can lose another 10% of the neurons. When the level of surviving neurons reaches about 30% they develop Parkinson’s symptoms that include shaking, rigidity and slowness of movement. As the disease becomes more advanced balance can be affected and eventually the ability to move. There are some unfortunate people, such as the actor Michael J. Fox, that develop the disease at a much younger age. There is no cure and the current drugs only treat the symptoms and have serious side effects.

    In the latest edition of the Archives of Neurology, researchers from ten medical institutions throughout the United States reported on a sixteen month trial in patients with early Parkinson’s disease. The eighty patients were assigned to four different groups: placebo, and CoQ10 at doses of 300 mg, 600 mg or 1200 mg daily. As noted above, it was a multi-center study which was randomized and double-blinded. At the end of the sixteen month trial, those patients taking CoQ10 had an overall slower progression of their condition compared to the placebo group. The group that did the best was those taking 1200 mg a day which resulted in a dramatic 44% reduction in progression. The authors concluded that CoQ10 appears to slow the progressive deterioration of function in Parkinson’s disease.

    I was previously aware that this study was underway. I had learned of this study several months ago when I had reported on the benefits of CoQ10 in a rare neurological condition known as Huntingdon’s chorea. This is a totally untreatable disease leading to involuntary movement and severe dementia and death. CoQ10 at 600 mg a day seemed to have some modest benefit in slowing down the progression of this deadly disorder. CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant and has powerful neuroprotective benefits. In addition, it is an integral part of energy production within the mitochondria of our cells. As we age these mitochondria die which can lead to cell death of the heart muscles and brain neurons. CoQ10 appears to slow or prevent this. Other studies in the medical literature have indicated that CoQ10 can improve cardiac function along with immune function.

    Based on this study I will certainly be recommending that all of my Parkinson’s patients be on CoQ10. It is important to use the correct doses and make sure the CoQ10 is pharmaceutical grade.

Medically trained in the UK. Writes on the subjects of injuries, healthcare and medicine. Contact me

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