Parkinson's disease (PD) is caused by damage to the dopaminergic (dopamine-producing) cells in the brain, which are primarily responsible for how we control our muscles. Because the disease produces fewer of these cells, PD causes a loss of control over movement.
The four main physical symptoms are:
- Shaking: Parts of the body can vibrate uncontrollably
- Losing balance
- Stiffness or inability to move at all
- Bradykinesia: incredibly slow motion
The cell damage that occurs in Parkinson's disease is gradual and the elderly are at greater risk. People with advanced Parkinson's disease often have decreased overall functioning in life due to increased motor impairments. As a result, in addition to having problems with daily activities, some people experience depression and emotional changes.
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Diagnosis and treatment:
PD is a brain disease that is difficult to diagnose without the use of brain scans or signs of serious motor loss and related disorders. PD is caused by the death of cells that produce dopamine and cannot regenerate. Although PD cannot be cured, it can be treated by replacing dopamine in the brain. Drug treatment with levodopa and carbidopa can replace dopamine, which is not produced due to cell death.
Usually, only symptoms of more severe Parkinson's disease, such as stiffness, can be relieved by the replacement of dopamine. Unfortunately, this drug is less effective for less severe symptoms such as tremors. Other medications that are utilized to treat Parkinson's disease include bromocriptine, anticholinergics, ropinirole, pramipexole, amantadine, and rasagiline, which are also used with levodopa. Again, most of these drugs work by replacing dopamine in the brain that the person can no longer produce.