Parkinson’s Disease

– The information has been reviewed by Dr. Chan Chun Chung

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in an area of the brain known as substantia nigra. This results in insufficient production of dopamine, which affects the ability of the brain to regulate body movement and leads to a loss of muscle control. Symptoms may include tremors in the limbs, slowed movement or impaired balance due to rigid muscles, and poor coordination of facial muscles that causes a loss of facial expression and speech problems. Most cases of Parkinson’s disease are idiopathic and the cause remains unknown, though several factors such as age and family history seem to play a role. While the average age of onset is over 60, around 10% of patients experience early onset Parkinson’s disease before the age of 40.Other conditions or circumstances may also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, such as head injuries, long-term use of antiemetics (medications that combat nausea and vomiting), metal poisoning, tumors, encephalitis, stroke, and brain trauma. 

Early Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Early Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

The brain is not only responsible for controlling our thoughts, but also for managing body movement. Brain diseases, therefore, should be treated as early as possible so as to prevent deterioration and consequently, major impacts on daily life. As a degenerative condition, Parkinson’s disease is not curable and its current treatment methods focus only on symptom relief and management to maintain mobility. If symptoms are too severe to be managed by medication, a new form of minimally invasive surgery known as deep-brain stimulation may be considered. During the surgery, the surgeon implants electrodes in targeted areas of the brain through a few small holes made in the skull.These electrodes are connected by wires to a generator implanted in the patient’s shoulder or chest, which creates electrical pulses to stimulate areas of the brain and thereby improve the patient’s mobility. This procedure has been performed overseas for many years and numerous studies have been conducted to prove its effectiveness. However, as it involves the implantation of a device, patients may require some time to recover from the surgery and adjust to living with a device in the body. Similar to a pacemaker, the battery of the generator needs to be replaced at regular intervals. 

Progression of Parkinson’s disease
Progression of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is not an acute disease and deteriorates gradually. As it progresses, symptoms extend from one side of the body to both sides, which may affect the patient’s ability to walk, and even cause a loss of balance that may trigger a fall. Many patients end up taking smaller steps in order to keep their balance. As the disease deteriorates further, patients may experience involuntary movements even if they are taking medication, and may suffer from complete loss of mobility, speech problems, and swallowing difficulties when the medication wears off. Depending on the rate of deterioration, Parkinson’s disease can progress from a worsening of symptoms to complete loss of mobility over a period of three to four years in cases of rapid progression, or over 10 years or more for slow-progressing cases. 

Other Conditions Caused by Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Other Conditions Caused by Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

While Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, it weakens the patient’s ability to walk and swallow, which can lead to serious falls or aspiration pneumonia caused by food or other material entering the lungs. To avoid accidents, patients and their families should remain attentive to details regarding daily care and activities.

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