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Parkinson’s Disease and Your Well-Being

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder in older adults.  It affects approximately 2 percent of adults age 65 and older. The National Parkinson Foundation estimates that 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease.  It is a chronic and progressive disorder of the central nervous system.  It results from nerve cells in the brain not producing enough of the movement-regulating chemical dopamine.

WHAT IS IT?

Parkinson’s disease develops gradually, often starting on one side of the body as a slight parkinsonshand tremor, for example. As the disorder develops, the tremor may exhibit on both sides of the body and be accompanied by other symptoms such as impaired balance and coordination, muscle stiffness, and slowness of movement. As the disease progresses, some adults will eventually experience dementia, including memory loss and other cognitive functions.

SYMPTOMS

Tremors are the most well-known symptom of Parkinson’s disease and often occur in the hands, fingers, forearms, feet, mouth, or chin. Other symptoms include slow movement, rigidity, poor balance, difficulty showing facial expression, and difficulty with fine movements such as tying shoe laces. In addition, some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia are changes in memory and concentration, trouble interpreting visual information, depression, and sleep disturbances.

DIAGNOSIS

There are no lab tests that can definitively diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your symptoms, a neurological exam to include testing your reflexes, and observation of things like muscle strength, coordination, balance, and other movement factors. However, as with other types of dementia there is no single test, or any combination of tests, that conclusively determines that a person has Parkinson’s disease dementia.

TREATMENT

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be devastating for both you and your family, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are a variety of treatments and self-help strategies that can significantly reduce symptoms and allow you to lead a fulfilling and productive life for many years to come.

Medications

If your treatment plan includes medications, it is important to work closely with your physician.  He can  determine the most effective drugs and doses for you.  Additionally, there are common medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease.  They include monoamine oxidase inhibitors, dopamine agonists, and sinemet.  All of these help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Self-help

self-helpCertain self-help strategies and lifestyle changes may help improve symptoms and make living with Parkinson’s disease easier. Stress can make many Parkinson’s disease symptoms worse.  It’s important to use relaxation techniques or physical therapy to reduce stress. Exercise can also greatly relieve symptoms.  Furthermore, it can also decrease stress and improve your mood. Any type of physical activity that raises your heart rate can be beneficial. In addition, joining a support group for patients with Parkinson’s disease can help connect you with others facing the same challenges.

SAFETY

Due to poor balance and coordination caused by Parkinson’s disease, there are some safety tips that can help lower your risk of falls or other accidents. Using grab bars or a bath chair in the tub or shower can help reduce your chance of falling. Also, making sure that stairwells are well-lit, walking areas are free of clutter, and carpeted areas are flat greatly help to minimize risks of falls.

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Learn all you can about Parkinson’s disease. Knowledge is power, and continuous learning keeps you empowered, enlightened, and in control. The more control you feel, the better you will be able to cope with symptoms.  This will enable you to enjoy a full and meaningful life. There is much you can do to change how you feel and enhance your outlook on life.

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