– What is Parkinson’s Disease?
– Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
– Statistics | How Common is Parkinson’s Disease?
– Condition Risk Factors
– What Are The Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?
– Dopamine Impact on the Brain
– Signs, Diagnosis, and Effects of Parkinson’s
– What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
– Is Parkinson’s Genetic and Hereditary?
– How Parkinson’s Disease Can Be Manage
– Potential Medication Side Effects
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which neurons in a part of the brain gradually die. Formerly called “shaking palsy,” doctors were aware of the illness, but few had taken the time to study it. Recognizing the seriousness of the condition, Dr. James Parkinson wrote a now-famous essay in 1817 drawing attention to the disease that would later be named after him.
When you have Parkinson’s disease, brain cells in a particular part of your brain, called the substantia nigra, start to die. These brain cells make a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Your body uses dopamine to send messages that control your:
- Pleasurable reward and motivation
- Behavior and cognition
- Sleep and arousal
The lack of dopamine caused by brain cell loss impacts these functions. While motor symptoms are the most noticeable to others, many people with Parkinson’s also experience constipation, cognitive changes, depression, insomnia, and dementia.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Scientists don’t know for sure what causes Parkinson’s. But they believe genetics plays a role in about 10 to 15% of cases.
So how do patients today manage Parkinson’s symptoms and minimize risks? The two most effective strategies are exercising regularly and taking medicine.
Any exercise can help slow the progression of motor symptoms. Some exercise classes like boxing and dancing may help with your cognitive symptoms, as well, because they require concentration and complex movements. Participating in group classes can also help with depression through socialization.
Almost everyone with Parkinson’s disease will be prescribed levodopa-carbidopa. When the drug enters your brain, this drug is converted to dopamine, replacing some of the disease-lost dopamine.
But, over time, brain cells continue to die, and levodopa-carbidopa may not be sufficient to help your brain make enough dopamine. A doctor may prescribe other treatments to strengthen the effects of levodopa-carbidopa.
Potential Side Effects of Medication
Raising the level of dopamine in your brain can cause surprising side effects. For example, you may get nauseous or experience uncontrollable movements. Occasionally, the drugs can seriously impact your cognition. Some people even have hallucinations or delusions.
Another of the worrisome side effects is compulsions. Because dopamine motivates you to repeat “rewarding behaviors,” excess dopamine can make it difficult to control compulsions leading to excessive gambling, binge eating, or inappropriate sexual behaviors.
It’s extremely important to communicate with your doctor frequently and bring along a family member, friend, or caregiver to your appointments if possible, in case they have noticed cognitive symptoms that aren’t obvious to you, in case your medicines need to be adjusted.
A solid support system is crucial. And, understanding the risks and benefits of medicines is essential to taking charge of one’s health.