Parkinson’s is an ongoing, chronic disease, and a cure has not yet been found. In Parkinson's, it is thought that the brain cells that make and store dopamine are gradually lost. There is degeneration of these dopaminergic cells with the presence of Lewy bodies (abnormal clumping of protein within nerve cells). Dopamine is the chemical messenger in your brain that helps control movement. That may be why, as Parkinson's progresses, motor symptoms tend to get worse.
While the exact cause of Parkinson's is unknown, some reasearchers believe that genetics may play a role for some people. For other people, exposure to toxins in the environment may increase the risk of developing Parkinson's.
In the early stages of Parkinson’s, many (but not all) experience tremors, a slight shaking movement, in the hand or foot on one side of the body, or in the face or jaw.
Rigidity is experienced as a resistance to stretching in the joints and muscles. It may happen in a sustained/constant fashion or intermittently.
Bradykinesia is the slowing down or loss of voluntary movement. Akinesia, an almost complete lack of voluntary movement, is its most severe form.
Freezing refers to the slight hesitation before taking a step forward. It’s temporary, and a person can enter a normal stride once they get past the first step.
A person with Parkinson’s may lose some of the reflexes needed for maintaining a stable upright posture, which may increase the risk of falls.
A person with Parkinson’s may also have difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking properly.
Some people with Parkinson’s may experience mood disorders, including depression, apathy, and anxiety.
Constipation may show up early in the disease and worsen over time. Urinary problems including urinary retention and incontinence, may also occur.
Some may experience hyposmia, a reduced sense of smell.
These symptoms include oily skin on the forehead and sides of nose, or an oily scalp, resulting in dandruff. In other cases, skin may become very dry.
Some may experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep disorder, which causes people to act out their dreams.
A person with Parkinson’s may lose the ability to multitask and/or concentrate, or they may experience (usually later in the disease) a decline in intellectual functioning and onset of psychosis.
For some, a slowdown of stomach emptying (also called “gastric emptying”) may occur. This can affect the digestion of food and how medicine is absorbed.
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