Parkinson’s Disease: Causes and Other Problems
Edu Punay (The Freeman) - June 13, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines -  In Parkinson's disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to signs of Parkinson's disease.

The cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, but several factors appear to play a role, including:

The person’s genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson's disease, but these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by the disease. However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson's disease but with a relatively small risk of the disease for each of these genetic markers.

Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson's disease, but the risk is relatively small. Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease, although it's not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:

The presence of Lewy bodies. Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson's disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson's disease.

Alpha-synuclein is found within Lewy bodies. Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (A-synuclein). It's found in all Lewy bodies in a clumped form that cells can't break down. This is currently an important focus among Parkinson's disease researchers.

Risk factors for Parkinson's disease include:

Age. Young adults rarely experience Parkinson's disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.

Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson's disease increases the chances that one will develop the disease. However, the risks are still small unless one has many relatives with Parkinson's disease.

Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than are women.

Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may put a person at a slightly increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is often accompanied by these additional problems, which may be treatable:

Thinking difficulties. The patient may experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking difficulties, which usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson's disease. Such cognitive problems aren't very responsive to medications.

Depression and emotional changes. People with Parkinson's disease may experience depression. Receiving treatment for depression can make it easier to handle the other challenges of Parkinson's disease.

The patient may also experience other emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety or loss of motivation. Doctors may give medications to treat these symptoms.

Swallowing problems. The patient may develop difficulties with swallowing as the condition worsens. Saliva may accumulate in your mouth due to slowed swallowing, leading to drooling.

Sleep problems and sleep disorders. People with Parkinson's disease often have sleep problems, including waking up frequently throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep during the day. They may also experience rapid-eye-movement sleep behavior disorder, which involves acting out their dreams. Medications may help their sleep problems.

Bladder problems. Parkinson's disease may cause bladder problems, including being unable to control urine or having difficulty urinating.

Constipation. Many people with Parkinson's disease develop constipation, mainly due to a slower digestive tract.

People with Parkinson’s disease may also experience:

Blood pressure changes. They may feel dizzy or lightheaded when they stand due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).

Smell dysfunction. They may experience problems with their sense of smell. They may have difficulty identifying certain odors or the difference between odors.

Fatigue. Many people with Parkinson's disease lose energy and experience fatigue, and the cause isn't always known.

Pain. Many people with the disease experience pain, either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their bodies.

Sexual dysfunction. Some people with Parkinson's disease notice a decrease in sexual desire or performance. (www.mayoclinic.org) (FREEMAN)

 

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