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Parkinson's DiseaseParkinson’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Stages and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about Parkinson’s Disease:

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that occurs when the brain stops producing dopamine; a crucial neurotransmitter. Parkinson’s, which affects the body’s movement, gradually starts to disrupt daily activities by causing tremors, stiffness, or slowness of the body.

Parkinson’s symptoms worsen over time, but the disease can be detected with early “non-motor” symptoms. Early detection can potentially halt the disease’s progression.

Although Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, medications have been proven to minimize symptoms.

What is the Cause of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the impairment or deterioration of the substantia nigra neurons. These neurons communicate with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that coordinates smooth and balanced muscle movement. Although the true cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, experts believe that the disease is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic Factors

Gene mutations can cause the disease directly, but this cause only affects a small number of families.

The vast majority of Parkinson’s cases do not stem from genetic factors, as only about 15-25% of people with the disease report having a relative with the disease. However, people who have a direct relative with Parkinson’s have up to a 9% higher chance of developing the disease, as compared to the general population.

Environmental Factors

Some scientists suggest that Parkinson’s develops as a result of an injury or exposure to an environmental toxin. Rural living, exposure to manganese, and exposure to pesticides are some factors that are potentially linked to Parkinson’s. There may be a greater risk of being diagnosed when exposure to such chemicals is elevated.

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease symptoms vary from person to person, but they usually begin on one side of the body and slowly progress to the other. Early signs of the condition may be mild and go unnoticed.

Several symptoms include:

Tremors

Shaking or tremors usually begin in a limb, often your hands or fingers. Generally, this can be recognized when your hand is relaxed or at rest.

Slowed Movement

Over time, Parkinson’s disease reduces the ability to move and makes simple tasks more difficult to complete.

Rigid Muscles

Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of the body and can limit your range of motion.

Impaired Posture and Balance

Posture becomes stooped and keeping oneself balanced may become a more prominent problem.

Automatic Movements

The ability to perform unconscious movements becomes hindered, making actions such as blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms while walking increasingly difficult.

Writing and Speaking Skills

Writing and speaking eventually become very limited — a prominent problem in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

What are the Risk Factors Associated with Parkinson’s Disease?

Although the primary cause of Parkinson’s Disease has yet to be identified, multiple risk factors contribute to its presence.

  • Age: Middle-aged to elder individuals have a greater chance of developing Parkinson’s, and the risk increases the older one gets.
  • Sex: Men are more likely to be diagnosed with Parkison’s than women. Toxin exposure and head trauma that could lead to Parkinson’s are more prominent in men, and studies also suggest the disease may be linked to the X chromosome.
  • Agricultural work: Exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides or herbicides puts an individual at a great risk. Some of these toxins lead to greater prevalence of Parkinson’s symptoms and increase the likelihood of developing the disease.
  • B Vitamin Folate: Researchers discovered that patients with a deficiency of this vitamin were more likely to develop severe Parkinson’s symptoms in comparison to individuals with normal vitamin levels.
  • Head Trauma: Current research has found a connection between head, neck, and cervical spine damage and development of Parkinson’s.

The likelihood of these risk factors causing an individual to develop Parkinson’s is still very limited. PD Is a rare form of dementia and, although one can have one or more of the risk factors listed above, it is possible to never experience any symptoms.

How is Parkinson’s Disease Treated?

Parkinson’s cannot be cured, but there are medications that can help control and, in some cases, dramatically improve symptoms. In more severe cases, like stage four or five, some surgery may be advised.

Lifestyle changes such as aerobic exercise is often recommended, as treatment is generally focused on balance and strengthening movement. If speech problems become more prominent, a language pathologist may help to improve them.

What are the Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease affects patients differently and therefore symptoms are irregular or infrequent. Parkinson’s has five stages, but the time spent in each varies between patients, and some patients even skip stages.

Stage One

A person experiences mild symptoms such as tremors or shaking in a limb. Poor posture, loss of balance, and abnormal facial expressions are more predominant in this stage.

Stage Two

The person’s symptoms are bilateral, affecting both limbs and both sides of the body. The patient usually encounters problems walking or maintaining balance, as well as the inability to complete ordinary tasks.

Stage Three

Inability to walk or stand are prominent in this stage, and there is a noticeable slowing of physical movements.

Stage Four

An extreme slowness of movement, including rigidity and bradykinesia, is accompanied by severe symptoms of Parkinson’s. Tremors or shakiness may lesson or become non-existent, but most patients are unable to live on their own.

Stage Five

Constant one-on-one nursing care is required in the final stage, as the patient is unable to take care of themselves and is usually unable to stand or walk on their own.

How Do I Prevent Parkinson’s Disease?

Because the direct cause of Parkinson’s remains unkown, it is not known how to completely prevent its onset. However, there are several precautions one can take in order to lessen its risks, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Caffeine: Some research has shown that beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola, may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s. Green tea may also reduce the risk.
  • Aerobic exercise: Research has also shown that regular aerobic exercise could reduce the risk of Parkinson’s.

What drugs are used to treat Parkinson’s Disease?

The following drugs and medications are related to or used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, according to Parkinson.org:

  • Levodopa
  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Amantadine
  • Anticholinergics
  • COMT Inhibitors
  • MAO-B Inhibitors

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View Sources

  1. Parkinson’s Cause – WebMD.com
  2. Parkinson’s Risk Factors – Parkinson.org
  3. Parkinson’s Stages – WebMD.com
  4. Parkinson’s Prevention – Alz.org

References