Understanding Parkinson’s Disease: Risk Factors, Early Signs and Treatment Options

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder with gradually occurring symptoms that typically gets worse over time.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year. With about a half a million people living with this condition in the United States, it is not unlikely that you may know of a family member or other loved one experiencing the disease, or who will so in the future. Understanding Parkinson’s disease, including its risk factors, early signs and treatment options, can be helpful in order to know how to best help someone in your life.

Parkinson’s is a progressive brain disease; symptoms begin gradually and become progressively worse over time. Men are at greater risk for the disease than women, and the exact cause of the disease is not fully understood. What we do know is that Parkinson’s occurs when nerve cells in the area of the brain that controls movement become impaired and/or die. When the nerve cells are altered, they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems common in Parkinson’s.

Risk Factors

Although Parkinson’s disease can seem to run in some families, its occurrence most often occurs more randomly. Many researchers now believe that Parkinson’s results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to pesticides, solvents, metals and other pollutants.

To help reduce risk, the following habits may be helpful:

  • Consume the spice turmeric, which contains the antioxidant curcumin.
  • Eat flavonoid-rich foods, such as berries, apples, red grapes, some vegetables and tea.
  • Avoid reheating cooking oils.
  • Limit exposure to herbicides and pesticides.

Early Signs

As many of the early signs of the disease are often attributed to the natural aging process, many families miss the risk factors. But learning the early signs of Parkinson’s disease and reporting them to your doctor is important, as early intervention is linked to the effectiveness of treatment.

The early signs of Parkinson’s include:

  • Hand tremors
  • Reduced coordination and balance which may cause the individual to drop items and fall
  • Stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Change in posture, including a shuffling gait
  • A loss of facial expression
  • A voice tremor or loss of volume and/or strength of voice
  • Cramped or smaller handwriting
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Problems sleeping, including restless leg syndrome

Other common symptoms can include:

  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Problems with urination and/or constipation
  • Skin problems

Treatment

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but medications are available to reduce symptoms and are most effective if taken early in the disease’s progression. Gene and stem cell therapy is offering promising new advancements in the research field that will hopefully lead to a cure or restoration of function for patients already experiencing loss of function.

Contact Visiting Care Giving Services at (626) 493-9058 to learn more about how our Chesterfield home care options can assist individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by promoting safety and independence. As the trained experts in providing in-home care in Chesterfield and the surrounding communities, let us help someone you love live life to the fullest.