April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month (PD)
One of the famous people with Parkinson’s disease is former Hollywood actor Michel J. Fox. He developed Parkinson’s disease at the age of 29 and has spent most of his life helping research into the disease through his foundation.
PD is a progressive degenerative brain disease and occurs in about 1% of all adults over the age of 60. It is the result of the loss or death of certain nerve cells that produce a chemical called dopamine.
It is one of the chemicals that carry messages between the nerves. This loss results in movement disorder (motor symptoms) as well as non-motor symptoms.
Shaking, stiffness, soft voice, dragging or slowing of gait, decreased arm swing, forward leaning posture, and the legs may feel restless or need to move. Late problems are balance and uncontrolled sudden movements called dyskinesia.
These are present in most parts of the body, from the brain to the sexual organs. Problems with thinking and memory may be observed, as well as anxiety, depression, and hallucinations (seeing and hearing things). Speech can gradually become soft and monotonous. The intestine is not spared and can present swallowing difficulties and constipation. Sexual problems include erectile dysfunction in men, with low libido and vaginal pain in women.
There are bladder problems, such as leaking urine, squirting badly, or inability to urinate (obstruction). Sleep problems include insomnia (inability to sleep) and increased daytime sleepiness. Some people may have sensory issues such as numbness, tingling, pain, vision problems, and reduced smell. Along with the skin, one of the incredibly early signs of PD before diagnosis is dry, scaly skin and moderate amounts of dandruff on an individual’s scalp.
Treatment of motor symptoms: Once diagnosed, treatment involves controlling both motor and non-motor symptoms. Currently, there is no treatment to stop or slow down the death of nerve cells. A neurologist usually looks after the patient, but the primary care physician can take care of a patient between the neurologist’s visits.
There are different classes of drugs that work to increase the amount of dopamine or to slow the breakdown of dopamine in the brain to relieve motor symptoms. Besides medication, physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, and Rock Steady boxing will help with movement, flexibility and balance. There are two surgical procedures used to relieve some of the motor symptoms; Deep brain stimulation and focused ultrasound.
Treatment of non-motor symptoms: It will depend on the symptom. Medicines may be given for constipation, insomnia, memory and thinking problems, depression and anxiety, drooling, pain, fatigue, or daytime sleepiness. A doctor should be informed so that they can be treated.
Social networking and support groups for patients and caregivers are vital and keep abreast of new treatments while providing support and socialization. Accra, for example, has a PD support group that meets once a month.
Other regions can also form support groups. To contact PD SUPPORT GROUP, CALL: Esinam- 0244144379 or Mary – 0246190619.
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Dr Barbara Entsuah MD. (Family physician, philanthropist and author)
#Love your body