Diagnosing and treating Parkinson's
What is Parkinson's disease? Parkinson's is a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system. Not only is there no cure, but the condition varies dramatically from person to person, so it can be difficult for doctors to offer a conclusive prognosis. Fortunately, research and experimentation have led to several treatments that can help slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms.
For someone who suffers from Parkinson's disease, it's important for them or their caregiver to monitor symptoms closely and report all findings to their doctor. The more information the doctor has about the patient's health and the progression of the disease, the better he or she will be able to handle their care.
Parkinson's Disease Symptoms
The symptoms and stages of Parkinson's disease vary from person to person in both the types and severity of symptoms that are present. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Slowing of voluntary movements
- Tremors in the hands, feet, mouth and chin
- Stiff muscles and muscle pain
- Difficulty balancing and loss of reflexes
- "Parkinson's gait" (a distinctive walk that includes shuffling, leaning, drooping shoulders and shorter arm swing)
Other symptoms include constipation, scaly skin, excessive sweating and problems swallowing. Some patients experience symptoms for years before the condition becomes debilitating, while for others it may progress very quickly.
Along with symptoms, other conditions may also be present alongside Parkinson's—for example, Parkinson's disease and dementia have been known to occur in tandem, as have Parkinson's and depression. It's important to treat these conditions as well as the Parkinson's, for overall health.
Parkinson's Disease Treatment
Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but there are ways to treat the symptoms. The treatment of Parkinson's disease typically includes medications like levodopa and carbidopa, to help reduce instability, tremors and other physical symptoms. Other medications can help slow mental deterioration.
Unfortunately, the Parkinson's disease prognosis is chronic and progressive, which means that even with treatment, symptoms will slowly become worse. Research is ongoing to help develop new drug treatments for Parkinson's and also to try to find root causes of the condition, such as genetics, toxins or external triggers.