Scientists are getting very close to discovering the cure for Parkinson’s disease. While the world only has treatments for prevention and symptom management to help patients live a comfortable life, we could soon see that change.
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This article discusses the causes, treatments, and early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Having Parkinson’s disease means that nerve cells in the brain are lost, leading to major changes or abnormal body movements.
To go into detail, the part of the brain called substantia nigra is affected when a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
This part of the brain is responsible for a person’s movements. When a person loses nerve cells in the substantia nigra, the production of dopamine is affected.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends messages and coordinates with the different parts of the body that involve movement. It helps us to plan and think and is also responsible for the sense of pleasure.
The body’s production of dopamine decreases when nerve cells are lost, which affects movements in the body.
According to a report by Parkinson Foundation, there are no obvious triggers or causes where this disease comes from. Some experts link it to having a genetic history and others to environmental factors, but none of them point to it being conclusive yet.
However, people over the age of 60 are more likely to be affected as reports indicate a 2-4% risk compared to 1-2% of people under that age.
Even in the absence of conclusive evidence, the development of PD can be associated with a severe shock that can be caused by a head injury, mental condition, surgery, or even severe mental stress.
Is There a Cure for Parkinson’s Disease? How Close Is a Cure for Parkinson’s?
As of now, there is no known cure for this disease. However, treatments such as drug therapy or brain surgery can help reduce symptoms and make life easier for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
While a cure is nowhere near, scientists claim they will find better treatment coming years, which is expected to happen within the decade. The past two years could have been years of progress for new drugs for PD, but the pandemic pushed back some plans.
As part of their progress in finding the cure, Parkinson’s research has launched a virtual biotech for developing and testing new treatments.
They also collaborate with international scientists to share thoughts and scientific discoveries to make testing more efficient and cheaper.
Finally, the research also looks for other unforeseen conditions that could pave the way for the development of PD in humans. Look for other possible options as to why the loss of nerve cells occurs.
How is Parkinson’s disease treated?
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease yet, doctors manage a patient’s symptoms to give them a better quality of life.
Some treatments include supportive therapies, such as physical therapy, and medications, which replace dopamine in the brain, while others require surgery.
The medications used to treat PD include the following:
Levodopa: This is the most common drug and is mixed with Carbidopa. This drug is digested and converted to dopamine in the brain. Side effects of this drug include dizziness, diarrhea, loss of appetite, constipation, memory loss, confusion, or change in the sense of taste. That is why Carbidopa is added to the treatment, which addresses these side effects.
Dopamine agonists: This is an alternative to levodopa-carbidopa. It deceives the mind that it is receiving dopamine. This is less potent than levodopa and less likely to cause dyskinesias. Side effects of dopamine agonists include nausea, hallucination, and dizziness. This treatment should be given at a low dose and increased gradually to avoid these effects.
COMT Inhibitors: COMT inhibitors such as entacapone and tolcapone are some of the latest technologies in the treatment of PD. Although it does not directly affect the symptoms, this drug blocks the metabolism of levodopa, prolonging its effect.
MAO B Inhibitors: MAO B is an enzyme responsible for the chemical breakdown of dopamine. MAO B inhibitors prevent this and slowly break down dopamine. The two MAO B inhibitors are selegiline and rasagiline.
Anticholinergics: Anticholinergics are great to help manage tremors. Although it does not directly treat PD, it relieves patients and reduces the symptoms of the disease. This treatment blocks a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which controls involuntary muscle movements and other bodily functions.
Amantadine: Amantadine is used to treat symptoms related to the treatment of Parkinson’s. It controls movement problems by helping to increase the amount of dopamine. At the same time, it can prevent symptoms of flu, which can complicate a patient’s condition.
Another way to treat PD is through stem cell therapy to help with the neurological condition. It is said to restore lost or damaged brain cells in a person with advanced PD.
What are the early signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s?
Because it is a slow-developing condition, it can be difficult to determine whether a person has PD.
However, there are signs that a person should take care of, which can lead to the early onset of the disease.
Fingers, hands, or faces that tremble without the influence of physical stress or muscle injuries can be an early sign that a person has PD.
2. Loss of Smell
While this early sign can be confused with other conditions like the common cold or the flu, having a permanent loss of smell can mean PD.
Sleeping problems or sudden movements during sleep can be an early sign of Parkinson’s. This may seem normal to others, especially after a physically exhausting day, but experiencing this should be checked immediately.
4. Smaller Handwriting
This condition, also known as micrography, is often related to PD and affects how a person writes as their handwriting gets smaller and smaller.
5. Difficulty walking
Since PD directly affects a person’s movement, an early sign of having this disease is difficulty walking or moving, especially when a person feels like their feet are stuck on the floor for no reason.
6. Hoarse voice
An early sign of PD is having a softer voice. A person may think that he/she has difficulty hearing, but that may be because the speaking voice is diminishing.
7. Face Mask
A masked face is when a person gets a tight, serious and depressed face even if he/she is not in a bad mood. The facial muscles may be affected. If you experience this, it could be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease.
Much like how a person’s motor movements are affected by PD, proper posture can also be changed. A person who would previously stand upright may now be bent over as early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Another sign that can mean many things, dizziness or even fainting when getting up from a chair can often be an early sign of PD. These conditions are related to low blood pressure, which is another symptom of having Parkinson’s disease.
This early sign may be difficult to catch, as it is linked to numerous conditions or conditions. For example, a person without enough fiber or water in their diet may have constipation. However, if there are no triggers that lead to constipation, it is best to see a doctor, especially if other symptoms appear.
There is no clear timetable as to when the world will see the release of an FDA-approved drug for Parkinson’s disease. However, you can be sure that many companies are working doubly hard to produce the remedy, but for now learning how to prevent and manage the disease will help fight the disease.
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