Parkinson's disease is also known as paralysis agitans. It was first described in the medical literature by an English physician in the early 19th century, James Parkinson. This disorder involves the progressive degeneration of certain nerve cells, or neurons, of the brain. Those that seem most affected are the ones involved with movement, or initiation of movement. The cells that are most affected are ones that produce and released the chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine. Many people that develop Parkinson's disease will also develop depression and, eventually, mental deterioration. The disease most commonly affects older adults.
Causes of Parkinson's Disease
More than 1 million American's suffer from Parkinson's disease. In the majority, the cause of the disease is not clearly known. It can occur in a delayed fashion after influenza virus produces encephalitis. Perhaps some slow-virus infections can produce this disorder. These are organisms more rudimentary than bacteria or viruses. Certain medications, such as phenothiazine tranquilizers, can lead to Parkinson's syndrome. Brain injuries and brain tumors can also produce symptoms of Parkinson's syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Symptom of Parkinson's disease vary, Early on, the symptoms may be mild, while later in the course of the disease they may make the person involved incapacitated. Tremors, or shaking, occurs at rest. That is, the symptoms are more prominent when the extremity involved is not being actively moved. Generalized stiffness and rigidity occur, making movements awkward. Walking becomes difficult and unstable. The person holds maintains their feet far apart for better balance. The steps become shuffling. Gradually, a stooped posture develops. The face loses its normal animation and expression. There are problems with swallowing, speaking and drooling. The handwriting may become small and difficult to read. The voice becomes weak and high pitched. In advanced cases, mental deterioration occurs. Depression is common. The types of symptoms that people suffering from Parkinson's disease will develop vary greatly. One person may have terrible tremor, while others will have difficulty initiating movements, but no tremor.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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