Ever wondered why does your granny have trembling hands and legs or the old uncle round the corner strolls around with a snail’s speed? That’s because they might be suffering from a chronic brain illness known as Parkinsonism, commonly observed in the people above 50 years.
So, what causes Parkinsonism?
Chiefly the causes of Parkinsonism can be listed as:
- Inheritance of a few faulty genes from one’s parents
- Medical drugs used for treatment such as Antipsychotics.
- Brain infections caused by viruses, bacteria etc
- Reduced blood supply to the brain such as due to Cerebral stroke or Brain tumours
- External environmental factors like chronic intake of pesticides and airborne pollutants.
Neurologists are also of the opinion that this disease is not really a disease but just the effect of ageing on the brain.
Symptoms of Parkinsonism
Our brain is comprised of tiny structures called neurons. Whenever there is a reduction in the number of neurons or malfunctioning of these in the brain, patients exhibit decrease electrical activity in their brain. This inevitably results in slowing down of muscle activity. The uninterrupted irregular signals lead to abnormal physical movements. Neither a lab test or a radiological test is available to confirm the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s diagnosis usually takes longer time often done by an experienced neurologist on the basis of the signs and symptoms. Any blood tests advised are to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. Below are a few symptoms of Parkinsonism:
- Tremors in hands & legs
- Slowing of gait
- Stiffness in muscles
- Slurring of speech
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty in urination
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Drooling of saliva
- Feeling hallucinations
How can the Parkinson’s patients manage their disease?
Parkinsonism is an incurable illness but it can be managed on a daily basis by consuming medications such as Levodopa. This drug is used for more than 60 years for controlling the frequency of the tremors. Levodopa, when administered, finds its way to the brain through blood and gets converted into dopamine. Dopamine helps lessen the unwanted electric impulses and thus helps the patients with better control over their involuntary body movements.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
DBS is a surgical intervention for alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This has been performed successfully in elderly patients with visibly reduced dependence on the medications for controlling tremors. A device is planted in the brain that can be controlled remotely. The aim of this device is to override the triggers produced within the brain and thus improve clinical symptoms. If the patients are willing to go under the knife, this surgery has already proven to yield better clinical efficacy.
A few lifestyle changes to enhance the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients:
Having a healthy diet provides necessary nutrition to the brain to fight the disease. Exercise boosts the immune system and keeps toxins at bay from further damaging the brain tissue. Reminders and memory aids can help the patients to go about their daily routine tasks with lesser dependence on others.
The miraculous advancement in the field of medical neurosciences has given a ray of hope for Parkinson’s patients. With increasing awareness, the patients today should take their neurologist’s advice to their advantage and bring improved vigour in their life.