Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the neural system. In this disease, the affected person’s brain and spinal cord functions begin to degenerate leading to disability and dysfunction over a period of time. The disease is distinct from Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain cells are damaged due to plague and tangles that are formed in the brain cells. In Parkinson’s disease, the microscopic scans show that the brain cells are destroyed and disintegrated.
The degenerative process of the nervous system usually affects people over the age of 60. The disease is most often associated with trembling of hands, but this is only one of its symptoms. It usually occurs sporadically and no direct correlation has been found with heredity.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF THE PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
The essence of the disorder is the disturbance in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are always present in the brain, like dopamine, acetylcholine, noradrenalin or serotonin. They participate in the process of information exchange between individual nerve cells of the brain, and their presence and correct proportions are necessary to maintain the balance of mental processes.
Parkinson’s disease results in the death of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine. This decaying of brain cells can occur for several reasons. First, these are specific mutations of the genes that increase the susceptibility of triggering the death of cells. Researchers believe that environmental factors may also have an effect – especially contact with harsh chemicals such as plant protection products or pesticides.
However, researchers have not fully concluded the exact reasons why cells that produce dopamine are destroyed. In the absence of these cells, the physiological effect is achieved by acetylcholine, another compound that is found throughout the nervous system. The excess of this chemical is responsible for a number of undesirable symptoms of the disease.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
The first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are subtle neurological disorders, such as impaired senses of smell, taste, abnormal colour vision, anxiety, depression, and constipation. One major prognostic symptom is the weakening of the sense of smell, which gets worse as the disorder continues to develop over several years.
A characteristic symptom of Parkinson’s disease is muscular trembling, especially when the body is at rest. This can happen when the patient tries to point a finger to a specific object or performs any desired action such as lifting an arm. The tremor can decrease or disappears on its own after a while.
The trembling is sometimes accompanied by a stooped, rigid body posture or a specific and awkward way of moving. This can happen with small steps with the forefoot, walking without raising the limbs or a shuffling movement. The facial expressions and gestures of the patient are also affected. The face becomes masked and expressionless.
Other symptoms may include salivation, excessive oily skin and sweating. The person complains about impaired concentration, memory issues and muscle stiffness.
Some of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include the following.
- Slow motion
- Difficulties in initiating movements
- Gait disturbance and balance
- Uncontrolled tremors
- Stiff muscles and rigid movement
- Difficulty swallowing
- Inability to speak
In addition, the common problems associated with Parkinson’s disease are movement and coordination disorders, loss of appetite, gastric complaints, problems with ingestion and swallowing of food and difficulties in performing simple daily activities. They negatively affect the patient’s nutritional status, well-being and effectiveness of treatment.
HOW TO CARE FOR A PATIENT WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE
The carer should first and foremost realize the progressive nature of the disorder. Many drugs have been developed that can reverse the course of the disease. However they don’t always work. A big achievement is the inhibition of the disease from progressing or often, a slowdown of its development. Unfortunately, the future of the patient may still progress to a permanent disability caused by the illness.
Caring for an elderly person with Parkinson’s disease should be based on ensuring their maximum comfort in everyday life. In the initial stage of Parkinson, physical activity is very important for patients. This will not only have a beneficial effect on the metabolic processes of the body, it will also allow the person to get rid of, persistent tremors during the early phase.
Carers should make sure that clients get a good deal of physical activity. This can be achieved by walking in the fresh air, light aerobics in the morning, water exercises or any other activities that the patient is willing and happy to do.
It is also important to ensure that the affected person gets a good opportunity to talk and have a conversation. The ability to speak and listen to others is affected by the disorder and the person becomes silent. Initially, the speaking exercises can be initiated by a specialized speech therapist, so that the next repetitions can be done by a carer under regular environment.
As the disorders of movement and activity for the client deteriorate, the carer must look for alternative forms of movement for the patient. These can be various types of orthopaedic help, like crutches, sticks or walking frames. The client’s residence should be fitted with handles and railings that the patient can grasp and hold on to in a crisis situation. Falling down can be particularly dangerous for the elderly due to the possibility of fracturing bones like the femoral neck. This could lead to permanent immobilization for the person.
A specialist doctor should be used for the treatment of gastric problems and insomnia, two common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.