Parkinson’s disease belongs to movement disorders that affect the nervous system. The symptoms of this neurological condition occur due to low dopamine levels in the brain. Experts do not have much information regarding the development of Parkinson’s disease. Still, they believe that genetic changes and exposure to specific environmental factors, such as toxins, are responsible for this severe neurological disorder.
Parkinson’s disease is an alarming neurological disorder that progresses over time. The earliest signs of this medical condition are movement problems. Smooth and coordinated muscle movements can be made possible by dopamine,
Early Signs and Alarming Factors
Parkinson’s disease symptoms develop gradually. So, you need to know the early signs of this medical condition. It often starts with a slight tremor in the left or right hand and a feeling of stiffness in the body. Some other earliest signs include constipation, decreased ability to smell (anosmia), changes in voice, small (or cramped) handwriting, and stooped posture.
Several environmental factors may add to the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease that may include the following:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Head injuries due to contact sports may increase the risk of this medical condition
- Exposure to toxins: such as pesticides, metals, solvents, and other pollutants
- Age: The medical problem often strikes people from the ages 60 years
- Gender: Males are 50 percent more likely to develop this neurological condition than females, although a study says that the risk may increase for females with growing age.
- Specific drugs and medications: Some medicines can lead to Parkinsonism, where an individual has tremors and other symptoms but does not have Parkinson’s disease.
Some of the early Parkinson’s disease symptoms can begin several years before developing any motor problem. These earliest signs
The four major motor problems associated with Parkinson’s disease are slow movements, tremors (shaking that occurs at rest), problems with balance and tendency to fall, and stiffness of the trunk, arms, and legs. Secondary symptoms of this neurological disorder include:
- a tendency to get stuck when walking
- blank facial expression
- decreased lining and swallowing
- muffled speech in low volume
- reduced arm swinging when walking
- tendency to fall backward
- Parkinsonian gait, tendency to take shuffling steps while walking
Other symptoms that are somehow associated with Parkinson’s disease may include:
- depression, anxiety, hallucinations, psychosis, problems with memory and attention
- increased risk of melanoma, a severe type of skin cancer
- difficulty with visual-spatial relationships
- flaky yellow or white scares on oily parts of the skin, popularly known as seborrheic dermatitis
- sleep disturbances such as vivid dreams, talking, and movement during sleep
What Causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease usually develops when changes occur in the brain. Precisely the cause is unclear, but researchers have identified some variations that occur. Low dopamine and norepinephrine levels, a substance that regulates dopamine, have been associated with Parkinson’s disease. Also, abnormal proteins known as Lewy bodies have been found in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Low dopamine levels
Symptoms of this neurological condition usually result from low or falling dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter. It happens when cells that produce this neurotransmitter die in the brain. Dopamine plays a significant role in sending messages to the brain parts that control movement and coordination. Therefore, low dopamine levels may make it challenging for people to control their actions. As dopamine levels keep falling, symptoms start turning more severe.
Low norepinephrine levels
This neurological disorder may also cause damage to the nerve endings that are responsible for another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, which aids to blood circulation and other automatic body functions. Low norepinephrine levels in Parkinson’s disease may increase the risk of both motor and nonmotor symptoms, such as postural instability, stiffness & rigidity, anxiety, tremor, dementia, difficulty focusing, and depression.
These levels may explain why people with this neurological disorder commonly experience orthostatic hypotension. It refers to when an individual’s blood pressure alters when they stand up, resulting in lightheadedness and risk of falling.
An individual with Parkinson’s disease may have clumps of protein in their brain called Lewy bodies or alpha-synuclein. The accumulation of these proteins can cause severe loss of nerve cells, resulting in movement, behavior, thinking, and mood changes. It can further lead to dementia. Lewy bodies dementia has no connection with Parkinson’s disease, but people may have both simultaneously as the symptoms are pretty similar.
While there are no clear causes, studies have identified groups of individuals who are more likely to develop this neurological condition, which includes:
- Sex: Men are about one and a half times more prone to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.
- Age: Parkinson’s disease usually strikes individuals between 50 and 60 years. It has been reported in only four percent of the cases before 40 years.
- Race: According to some reports, there is a higher prevalence of this medical condition in white people compared to Black or Asian people. Geographic locations can be one reason for a higher risk.
- Family history: Individuals with close family members or relatives with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to develop this neurological condition.
- Head injury: People who have head injuries may be more prone to develop Parkinson’s disease.
- Toxins: Exposure to specific toxins may increase the risk of this neurological disorder.
Autoimmune factors responsible for Parkinson’s disease
In a study back in 2017, scientists found a possible genetic link between autoimmune conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis) and Parkinson’s disease. While in 2018, researchers investigating Taiwan’s health records found that individuals with autoimmune rheumatic disorders had a 1.37 times higher chance of also having Parkinson’s disease.
Stages of Parkinson’s disease
Many medical healthcare professionals use the Hoehn and Yahr scale to classify the stages of Parkinson’s disease. This scale divides the symptoms into five phases and helps doctors learn about the advancement of this disease’s signs and symptoms.
Stage 1 of this neurological disorder is the mildest form. It is so mild that you may not notice any noticeable symptoms. They usually do not interfere with daily life activities and tasks. If you do not experience any symptoms, the disease may be isolated to any one side of your body.
The progression from stage 1 to stage 2 might take several months or even years. Each individual can have a different experience. At this moderate stage, you may have tremors, muscle stiffness, trembling, and changes in facial expressions.
Muscle stiffness can obstruct you from performing daily activities, prolonging the time it takes to complete the tasks. However, it is uncommon to experience balance problems at this stage. Symptoms may start appearing on both sides of the body at this stage. Changes in posture, facial expressions, and gait may become more noticeable.
It is the middle stage of this neurological disorder where symptoms start reaching a turning point. While you are unlikely to have new symptoms, the pre-existing ones become more noticeable and interfere with your daily tasks.
It becomes hard to perform physical activities at this stage as the body movements slow down to an extreme level. Falls are common since balance issues become more significant. But individuals with Stage 3 Parkinson’s disease usually maintain independence and complete tasks without much assistance.
At this stage, you are more likely to experience great difficulty standing without support (walker or any other assistive device). Muscle movements and reactions also slow down significantly, and living alone can be unsafe and dangerous.
It is the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease, and severe symptoms make full-time assistance necessary. It becomes difficult to stand, and one may need a wheelchair. Also, people with Stage 5 Parkinson’s disease may experience confusion, hallucinations, and delusions.
Is it possible to prevent Parkinson’s disease?
One can not claim yet that prevention of this neurological condition is possible, but some lifelong habits may aid in the reduction of the risks.
Avoid toxins intake
People should be careful while using potentially toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, and solvents. If possible, people should try taking the following steps:
- using alternatives to products that contain toxins, such as paraquat
- avoiding the unnecessary use of herbicides and pesticides
- taking precautions while it is not possible to avoid them, such as wearing protective clothing and covering the nose or other body parts that may intake toxins
Avoid head trauma
Head trauma can usually occur due to external forces, but to protect themselves from traumatic brain surgery, individuals can take the following steps:
- wearing a helmet while cycling or motorcycling
- wearing protective headgear during any contact sports
- using a safety belt when traveling by car or jeep
- go for immediate medical attention for concussion and avoiding any further risk until a medical healthcare professional says it is safe to do so
Some food items may also help lessen the risk of Parkinson’s and other medical conditions. According to research, the following dietary choices may help:
- Turmeric: is a mild spice that people add to soups, curries, teas, and other foods. It contains an antioxidant ingredient known as curcumin. According to a laboratory study, turmeric may help reduce the risk of this neurological disorder by preventing oxidative stress and clumping of alpha-synuclein protein (or Lewy bodies).
- Flavonoids: Studies suggests that antioxidant may lessen the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Apples, berries, tea, some vegetables, and red grapes contain flavonoids.
- Avoiding aldehydes: Heating and reusing the same cooking oils, such as sunflower oil, may result in the formation of aldehydes, which are toxic chemicals associated with Parkinson’s and other similar diseases. A recent report suggests that potatoes fried in already used cooking oils could have high levels of aldehydes.
According to a report, regular exercise may help treat or prevent Parkinson’s disease. Physical activities can help maintain dopamine levels in the brain and keep you healthy in several ways.