A Complete Guide to Parkinson's Disease: What You Need to Know

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder of aging. This progressive disease currently impacts anywhere from seven to 10 million people throughout the world. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you are not alone. 

For those experiencing Parkinson’s related dementia, the experienced professionals at Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center can help. We offer a full schedule of different stage-specific day programs, caregiver services, educational workshops, and more. Our hands-on solutions are uniquely designed to help those impacted by Parkinson's and other types of dementia live longer, fuller lives. 

Overview Of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive illness that impacts an individual's brain cells. In the earliest stages, you might notice only mild symptoms. However, as the disease reaches its later throes, the ailment can precipitate mobility issues and other potentially serious manifestations.

Parkinsonism is a moniker used to explain a collection of symptoms and signs associated with Parkinson's disease. These include stiffness, imbalance, slowness, and tremors. It's important to understand that other conditions may have these same symptoms. 

What Are the Causes of Parkinson's Disease? 

Medical researchers opine that one principle cause seems to be a systemic decrease in a vital brain chemical known as dopamine. Diminished contents of this chemical cause brain cells, also called neurons to die. Healthcare professionals also suggest that the condition might be precipitated by genetic mutations and chronic exposure to certain environmental toxins. However, researchers stress that the latter two cases are not as common.

Physical Manifestations of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's symptoms tend to vary from individual to individual. You may or may not experience discernible symptoms until the disease has advanced to a later stage. However, in most instances, the first noticeable manifestations include tremors confined to one of your limbs, hands or fingers. As the disease process advances, tremors might become more pronounced or spread to other bodily regions.

In addition to more severe tremors, those in the moderate to later phases of the illness might experience: 

  • Slowed movements that might manifest in smaller, shorter steps, foot-dragging, difficulty arising from chairs or bed or a decreased ability to perform formerly routine tasks
  • Poor balance
  • Posture problems like stooping
  • Muscle rigidity and stiffness
  • Slurred or speech or difficulty annunciating words
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing

Later stage illness might also cause complications, such as chewing and eating difficulties, increased choking potential, insomnia, cognitive decline, loss of bowel or bladder control, pain, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, and depression.

Different Types of Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders

The most common form of Parkinsonism is Idiopathic Parkinson's, but there are several other atypical types of the disease. These conditions are harder to treat and are explained below. 

Lewy-Body Dementia

This illness is caused by the accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein inside the brain. This disease precipitates severe memory loss and concentration problems in conjunction with the typical manifestations associated with Parkinson's disease.

Vascular Parkinsonism

This variation is usually brought forth by a major stroke or a series of minor strokes that result in discernible brain cell destruction.

Multiple System Atrophy

Impacted individuals experience a multitude of neurodegenerative disorders at once. Typically, impacted subjects witness symptoms similar to Parkinson's but a more rapid decline.

Diagnosing Parkinson's Disease

There is no single medical test that can confirm the disease's presence. An official diagnosis can prove time-consuming and may require the involvement of several specialized physicians. A diagnosis can be confidently rendered following multiple medical examinations and a careful review of your symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic tools such as blood tests and systemic imaging scans like Computerized Tomography, CT and Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI, might be employed to rule out the presence of other illnesses.

If your physician does suspect Parkinson's disease, they may prescribe a short course of medication used to treat the illness. If symptoms improve, this might help your doctor reach a more firm conclusion.

Possible Treatment Options for Parkinson's Disease

Similar to other types of dementia, there is no cure at the present time. However, your physician can use multiple medicinal strategies and therapeutic protocols to provide symptom relief and improve your overall quality of life. Some of the most common treatments can include:

  • Medications may be administered to control tremors and improve mobility issues
  • Deep brain stimulation in which electrical impulses are pumped into the brain with designs on curbing associated symptoms
  • Physical therapy geared towards preventing impacted limbs and bodily regions from weakening atrophying
  • Occupational therapy in which a trained professional provides you instruction on how to more easily perform basic daily tasks

Other possible treatments may include the consumption of a healthy diet, obtaining as much exercise as possible and partaking in muscle-relaxation techniques.

Can Parkinson's Be Prevented? 

Healthcare professionals are not sure if there are any preventative measures you can employ. However, engaging in actions like eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, partaking in brain-stimulating activities — such as the LIAD Center's Brain Fitness Workshops — and obtaining adequate amounts of physical activity might reduce your chances. 

Contact Long Island Alzheimer’s and Dementia Center

Receiving a diagnosis for Parkinson's disease can be alarming. However, the experts at the LIAD Center can be with you and your family every step of the way. Our stage-specific dementia day programs are designed around abilities and enjoyment.

Contact us today at (516) 767-6856 to learn more about the services we offer caregivers and individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.