Understanding Parkinson Disease

What is Parkinson disease?
Parkinson disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

People affected by Parkinson disease may develop various symptoms including tremor, stiffness or rigidity in their legs and arms, slowness of movements and /or imbalance. In the early stages there may be a slight shaking of hands or walking difficulty that is barely noticeable. Over time the symptoms may become more pronounced resulting in unclear speech and varied physical disability.

Who can develop Parkinson?
Parkinson usually develops in people over the age of 60 years. The risk of developing Parkinson increases with age. It affects both men and women.

What is young onset Parkinson disease?
Rarely Parkinson disease develops in people at 40 years or so – called young onset Parkinson disease.

Why does Parkinson disease develop?
Parkinson disease is a Movement Disorder. It results from loss of brain cells (neurons) in an area of brain called the the substatianigra , that modulates movements. The cells of substantianigra involved in Parkinson disease produce a chemical called dopamine. Deficiency of dopamine is believed to be responsible for most of the symptoms of Parkinson disease.

Warning signs of Parkinson
Shaking (tremor) of hand or leg
Loss of facial expressions or poker face
Muscle ache
Decreased speed in walking
Difficulty in getting in and out of a car
Difficulty in turning while walking
Leg getting “stuck”
Fear of falls while walking or unprovoked falls
Slowness of daily activities, for instance dressing, bating, eating

How is Parkinson disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Parkinson disease is based on a through neurological examination and is best done by a neurologist who is a Movement disorder specialist. Many diseases may mimic symptoms of Parkinson disease and it is essential to exclude these through clinical examination and appropriate tests (blood tests, brain imaging).

What diseases can mimic Parkinson disease?
Lewy body
Various diseases can mimic Parkinson disease. Treatment of these diseases is different from Parkinson’s disease. Consultation with a Movement disorder specialist is essential for early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Some of the diseases that may resemble Parkinson’s disease are-
Essential tremor
Dystonic tremor
Neuroleptic drug use
Diffuse Lewy Body Disease
Multiple System Atrophy
Parkinson disease dementia
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
Brain infections
Huntington disease
Metal deposition disorders: Neurodegeneration from Brain Iron Accumulation (NBIA), Wilson Disease (WD)