As a regional leader in providing care for neurological conditions, Norton Neuroscience Institute is dedicated to offering the most advanced treatments and support for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease usually affects people between the ages of 55 and 75, but it can develop at an earlier age. Nearly 1 million Americans are living with the disease.
While a cure has yet to be found for Parkinson’s, Norton Neuroscience Institute offers advanced, leading-edge treatments to help control your symptoms.
Early detection and treatment can preserve quality of life and manage symptoms.
If you have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, you may be wondering what it is, what you can expect or what kinds of treatments are available to manage the condition. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological (brain) disorder that is caused by the breakdown of nerve cells (neurons) in the part of the brain that controls movement. These nerve cells die or become damaged, losing the ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine. Studies have shown that symptoms of Parkinson’s develop in patients with an 80% or greater loss of dopamine-producing cells.
Parkinson’s disease is considered a movement disorder. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are caused by a loss of neurons that produce dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, brain activity becomes irregular, which leads to issues with movement, speech and balance.
Doctors don’t know what causes Parkinson’s disease, but several factors appear to play a role, including:
Research has shown that the brains of people with Parkinson’s have certain changes, but it is not clear how those changes affect the disease. People with Parkinson’s have:
Researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
Risk factors for Parkinson’s include:
Most people think any shaking in the hands is a sure sign of Parkinson’s disease, but there are other conditions that make your hands shake, including essential tremor. A trained health care professional can tell the difference between Parkinson’s and essential tremor.
Other symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
Parkinson’s symptoms affect everyone differently, from the severity of symptoms to how quickly they get worse. Doctors use stages to describe how Parkinson’s disease progresses.
Stage 1: Symptoms are mild and do not interfere with daily life. Tremors and other movements happen only on one side of the body. Changes in posture, how someone walks and facial expressions are somewhat noticeable.
Stage 2: Symptoms get worse. Tremor, rigidity and other movement symptoms affect both sides of the body or the torso/neck areas. Difficulty walking, poor posture and balance issues also may be getting worse. Daily tasks become more difficult.
Stage 3: Mid-stage progression is when loss of balance is apparent. Falls become more common. Motor symptoms get worse. Daily activities are restricted, but the person still can be mostly independent.
Stage 4: Symptoms are fully developed and severely disabling. The person may be able to walk and stand by themselves, but may need a cane or walker to move safely. The person is no longer able to live alone.
Stage 5: Symptoms are seriously debilitating. Stiffness may make it impossible to stand or walk. The person may need to use a wheelchair to get around, or may be bedridden. Constant care and supervision are needed for all activities.
Aside from the listed symptoms related to movement, the patient may have other symptoms, which may be treatable. Those include:
It is important to diagnose Parkinson’s disease as soon as possible. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are very similar to other conditions. In order for doctors to treat your specific disease correctly, testing is key.
There is no one test for Parkinson’s, but a new skin test may help doctors diagnose this disease. In addition to this test, doctors will ask about your family history. They also will perform a physical and neurological exam and look at your symptoms.
Your health care team may use other tests if needed.
Very early symptoms of Parkinson’s easily may be overlooked. They also can mimic many other conditions, so it is important to have an experienced health care provider evaluate you. Some early symptoms include:
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, there are effective ways to manage symptoms so you can live a full and comfortable life. It is important to work with a multidisciplinary health care team so your Parkinson’s treatment experience is fully tailored for your needs.
Treatment for Parkinson’s may include medication, surgery or lifestyle changes. It typically will include all three, depending on your unique symptoms. Parkinson’s symptoms vary from person to person, in severity and response to treatment.
There is some evidence that aerobic exercise prevents the progress of Parkinson’s disease.
It is unusual for people under age 60 to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. About 5% to 10% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are under age 50, and about half of those are diagnosed before age 40. Approximately 90,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed each year in the United States, meaning somewhere around 9,000 to 18,000 are young-onset patients.
Diagnosis between ages 21 and 50 is called early-onset or young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD). While symptoms are mostly the same at any age, people with YOPD experience the disease differently from their older counterparts. YOPD symptoms may go overlooked for years due to age, meaning you could go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for a long time. YOPD patients tend to have fewer other illnesses and generally are more capable during physical therapy treatments.
The disease progression looks different in younger Parkinson’s patients. The commonly used medication treatment levodopa can cause more involuntary movement issues in younger people. Other typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are less common or less severe in younger patients, including memory loss, confusion and balance issues.
YOPD patients need lifelong Parkinson’s care. It is important to have a multidisciplinary health care team to tailor a complete care plan.
Parkinson’s disease doesn’t just affect your body and mind. It impacts your entire life, including relationships and mental health. It also can affect those around you — family, friends and co-workers. As human beings, social interaction is crucial to our overall well-being, so it is important to maintain that as long as possible.
Some of the ways Parkinson’s affects your life include:
What to do about the social impacts of Parkinson’s:
Some recent studies show two ways to prevent the progress of Parkinson’s: aerobic exercise and limiting exposure to some chemicals. There has been some evidence that dietary changes can slow the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Early detection and treatment of Parkinson’s is key. There are many ways to manage symptoms, especially if they are caught early.
It’s part of Norton Neuroscience Institute’s goal to care for the whole person, not just the condition.
More patients from Louisville and Southern Indiana seek their neurology and neurosurgery care from Norton Neuroscience Institute’s nationally recognized specialists than any other providers in the area.
Your Norton Neuroscience Institute medical provider has the expertise, experience, diagnostic tools and sophisticated treatments to provide care tailored to your needs.
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