Even after the incredible advancement of medical technology worldwide, some diseases continue to hold the potential to leave permanent marks of adverse impacts in our lives. The unexpected intervention of the diseases and the impediments caused by them sometimes turn our lives upside down. It is not too rare for us to come by some individuals who used to be very active and lived the lives as achievers but got slowed down and grossly demotivated after being diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is one such complication that affects an individual's personal, social and professional life. Dr. James Parkinson first conceptualised the disease in 1917, suggesting that it basically causes certain portions of the brain to decay and lose functionality. It is a neurodegenerative disorder that initially affects the patients’ ability to move their organs. The central nervous system is hampered by PD in ways that gradually make physical movements more and more difficult and uncomfortable for a patient.In most cases, early signs of PD turn out as tremors and shakings of hands and feet while walking. It gradually affects the ability to move the mouth and tongue to speak and also sometimes causes problems to sleep. The overall pace of movement for the individual tends to get more stiffened with time. The length of each step often becomes shortened. Muscles also become hard and rigid, and patients feel shaky and less confident while standing up from a chair or rising from the bed. Sometimes the ability to talk or laugh also seems to have been affected when a patient has PD. Some individuals may also lose control over their speeches and talk without proper pauses.
Though the main reason for PD is yet to be discovered, many factors have been identified to be probable triggers of the disease. The damage of certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain leads to the loss of dopamine, which later results in abnormal brain functionality. Genetic mutation is one of the causes of PD, though it is not seen very frequently. Those with PD patients in their families have increased chances of being affected by it. Some particular types of chemicals increase the possibility of getting PD. Therefore, chemical factory workers are more exposed to threats. ‘Lewy Bodies’ have also been identified to cause PD alongside few other possible triggers, which are still being researched.
Like the unspecified causes of PD, there is no demographic who could be termed as most vulnerable to getting PD. It is rarely seen among young people. The risk of PD increases with ageing. Statistically, men are more susceptible to PD than women. Workers who are exposed to herbicides and pesticides also have slightly increased risks of PD.
PD comes with many unprecedented consequences that cause the patients to struggle in their daily lives. The root of all is the damage of the nervous system, which gradually attacks the other regular processes of the brain. Sadness, depression, and fatigue come as primary symptoms, followed by dementia and disorganised thoughts. Some patients feel unease while consuming food. Excessive saliva may accumulate inside their mouth, causing them to drool. PD can also cause patients to suffer from irregular sleep tendencies. Some outcomes of PD could be falling asleep in the daytime, waking up too early, or waking up frequently while sleeping. Some may also lose control over their bladder and urinate unintentionally. Constipation, disrupted bowel movements, high blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) are also some outcomes of PD.
No treatment method has yet been discovered through which PD could be completely cured. But regular medication and a proper rehabilitation system with the cooperation of family and friends have been proven to be beneficial for PD patients’ health and stability. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is one of the most common methods of surgical treatment for PD. DBS is mostly recommended to patients who have PD for over four years and show enough chances of lasting recovery through minimised stiffness and tremor. Electrodes are implanted in the patient’s brain through DBS to simulate necessary body movements via electrical signals. The surgery is not very painful and is performed by specialist neurosurgeons with a team of neurospecialists. Different patients face different consequences after a DBS surgery, but patients usually manage to adjust to their new life companion within a few months. The device settings require to be adjusted based on patients’ experience and feedback. Therefore, it is advised to keep in close contact with the doctor and express how the patient is coping with the artificial simulations without hesitation.
If one is suspected to have PD, s/he should immediately be taken to a neurologist. Upon a thorough checkup and detailed analysis of the patient’s medical and family history, a neurologist may determine whether it is a case of PD. However, since the actual cause/s of PD remains unrecognised, a completely accurate diagnosis or treatment for PD is very difficult to ensure. It requires a holistic approach by the caregivers and a complete determination by the patients to overcome. Maintaining a proper food habit and regular physical activities, in general, keep the risks of PD lower. Physiotherapy could also be another way to overcome the complications caused by PD.Diseases are the least anticipated parts of our lives, creating unwanted complications. PD patients, after a prolonged period of time, may start to become isolated and short-tempered. Close relatives and friends must always keep in mind that the patient’s brain is not functioning properly. Therefore they need cooperation and sympathy rather than judgment and questioning for actions.
Disclaimer: Any and all the Information provided in the article are independent views of the writer, who is an Assistant Professor (Neurosurgery), National Institute of Neurosciences & Hospital (NINS), and expressed for general overview and educational purposes only.