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Parkinson’s Disease (PD) – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the movement of a person. The condition mostly affects the nerve cells/neurons that produce “dopamine” in an area of the brain called the “substantia nigra”. Symptoms develop gradually and get worse over years. The progression of symptoms is different from one person to another and in most cases begins with a slight tremor in just one hand. It also causes stiffness/inflexibility of muscles or the slowing of movement. Effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease offered by leading pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC helps relieve pain symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Reports from MedicalNewsToday.com suggest that approximately one million adults in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; with over 60,000 people diagnosed annually. Even though both men and women can have PD, the disease affects about 50 percent more men than women. The exact cause of PD is unknown. However, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors may play an active role.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of this progressive disorder may vary from one person to another. Early signs may be mild and may often go unnoticed. Often, these symptoms begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides. These symptoms are classified as primary, secondary and general.

Primary symptoms

Parkinson’s Disease

  • Bradykinesia (slowness of movement, slowed motion)
  • Resting tremor (shaking)
  • Postural instability (impaired balance and coordination)
  • Muscle stiffness

Secondary symptoms

  • Speech problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of facial expression
  • Fatigue
  • Cramping
  • A tendency to stoop, to lean forward
  • Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
  • Involuntary movements and prolonged muscle contractions (dystonia)

General symptoms

  • Dementia
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Urinary incontinence (bladder weakness)
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Reduced sensation of pain
  • Constipation
  • Light-headedness or dizziness when standing (orthostatic hypotension)

Typically, this condition develops among people after the age of 60 years. The associated risk factors include – age, heredity, toxic exposure and sex.

Diagnosis and Treatment of PD

There is no specific test for Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is made by a special team of physicians comprising neurologists, physical therapists, pain management experts, speech therapists, neuropsychologists and rehabilitation experts. Initial diagnosis will be performed after a review of patient symptoms along with a detailed neurological and physical examination. In addition, several advanced imaging tests such as MRI scan, ultrasound of the brain, SPECT and PET scans and blood tests will be conducted to analyze symptoms and rule out other disorders. Treatment methods include –

  • Medications – Medications help reduce problems related to movement, tremor and muscle rigidity. In addition, these medications will increase the level of dopamine in the brain. Medications prescribed by physicians include – Carbidopa-levodopa, MAO-B inhibitors, Dopamine agonists, Amantadine and Anticholinergics.
  • Physical therapy – Physical therapy helps maintain mobility, function and strength. These programs include exercises that reduce muscle stiffness and joint pain through movement. Therapeutic exercise programs that focus on stretching and strengthening can help PD patients improve balance problems, gait, fatigue and pain.
  • Speech therapy – Most patients suffering from Parkinson’s experience symptoms like slurred speech and poor body language. A speech-language pathologist may help improve language and speech problems.
  • Occupational therapy – This treatment modality can help people with Parkinson’s disease stay active in performing their daily tasks effectively as the disease progresses. These therapists provide assessment and treatment in areas such as mobility, fall prevention and self-care routines.

Surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulations may be recommended only as a last resort in cases of severe PD.

Incorporating positive lifestyle changes is important when it comes to managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Regular physical exercise and healthy eating is important to maintain or improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility. It also helps to prevent depression and anxiety symptoms associated with this neurodegenerative disorder.

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