Before proceeding with caring for Parkinson patients, it is important to understand about the disease. A progressive nervous system disorder, Parkinson’s affects a person’s ability to move, speak or write because of the accelerated loss of the brain chemical – dopamine. The symptoms begin in most people after the age of 50.
Starting with slight tremors of the hand, sometimes the patients experience complete stiffness. To this very day, there is no prescribed cure for the disease. Medical experts, however, believe that the disease is caused by various environmental and genetic factors. The inability to move and the severity of symptoms sometimes calls for the use of professional caregivers.
Causes of Parkinson’s
Patients with Parkinson’s usually have low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The cells that generate this chemical are known as dopaminergic neurons, which are located in the substantia nigra region of the brain. It is when the dopamine level in the brain is low due to unprecedented death of these cells, the person is unable to control or manage their movements. Medical experts are yet to find the relevant cause behind the death of these cells. In a person affected with Parkinson’s, the level of dopamine in the brain progressively drops. Moreover, there is no proper Parkinson’s disease treatment available in the market till date. Medication that is rendered helps to reduce the symptoms to a certain level.
Parkinson’s disease can however, never be a direct cause of death. Since it’s a progressive disease, the symptoms just gets worse with time. An incurable, chronic disease, Parkinson’s in most people is idiopathic, which indicates that the specific cause is unknown. A small segment of people associate the disease with genetic factors.
Increased symptoms of Parkinson’s are associated with certain environmental factors. This includes head injuries, rural environments, drinking ground water, exposure to implicated agents including insecticides and pesticides, organochlorides, heavy metals, etc. However, no substantial medical research exists that holds environmental factors directly responsible.
Parkinson’s has always been considered a non-genetic disorder, though mutation has been known to increase the risk of Parkinson’s. However, health industry research shows that around 15% of patients have a first-degree relative with the disease, while 5% have the disease from the mutation of specific genes. The mutated genes related to it are medically referred to as SNCA and LRRK2.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
For most patients, the Parkinson disease symptoms first appear after the age of 50. It starts with mild tremors, with the following as common symptoms:
- Slow blinking
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Problems with balance when walking
- Lack of facial expressions
- Muscle aches and pains
- Muscle stiffness
- Monotonous voice
- Anxiety, stress and tension
- Confusion, dementia and depression
- Loss of memory
Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Currently, the healthcare market does not provide any kind of definite Parkinson’s disease treatments. For most patients, the objective is to control the symptoms and to avoid it from becoming too severe. The medications control the symptoms by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain, however, the symptoms can return once the effects of the medication wear off. It is important that the caregivers work closely with doctors and physical therapists to establish a therapeutic program that best suits the patient. No medication should however be stopped without consulting with the doctor. Moreover, since the medications have severe side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and delirium, monitoring the patient round the clock is imperative. Sometimes small lifestyle changes like the ones below, can actually be helpful:
- Including nutritious diet in the daily meal plans
- Changing the energy levels through exercise
- Avoiding stress in all forms
- Physical therapy
- Installing railings or banisters in commonly used areas of the house that can provide support and prevent falls
Surgery may sometimes be an option for eliminating Parkinson disease symptoms. Surgical methods like deep brain stimulation work by placing electrical stimulators that help control movement, while in other surgeries, the brain tissue that causes the symptoms is destroyed. One of the most talked about therapies in healthcare research is surgical procedures that involve stem cell transplant.
Though there are no prescribed treatments that will eliminate the disease, if the patient remains untreated, the situation may get complicated since Parkinson’s is known to deteriorate all brain functions. Some patients respond well to the medication, however, as much as these relieve symptoms, the tenure of relief differs from patient to patient.