It is estimated that 6.3 million people have Parkinson’s disease worldwide, affecting all races and cultures. According to available statistics, 1.2 million people in Europe have the disease.1 If you’re one of them, you probably know this neurological movement disorder is progressive, neurodegenerative, and currently has no cure — treatments are focused on reducing the symptoms of the disease.
Although Parkinson's disease typically develops after the age of 65, about 15% of people with the condition develop young-onset Parkinson's disease before reaching the age of 50.1
As Parkinson's disease progresses, it becomes increasingly disabling, making daily activities like bathing or dressing difficult or impossible. Many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease involve motor control (the ability to control your muscles and movement).
Parkinson's disease is caused by the degeneration of a small part of the brain called the substantia nigra. As brain cells in the substantia nigra die, the brain becomes deprived of the chemical dopamine.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, enables brain cells involved in movement control to communicate. Reduced levels of dopamine lead to the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, 80% of dopamine-producing cells are lost even before the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease appear.2
As dopamine continues to be lost, Parkinson's disease often becomes increasingly disabling over time. If you suffer from Parkinson's disease, you may have trouble performing daily activities such as rising from a chair or moving across a room. As the disease progresses, some people need to use a wheelchair or may become bedridden.
There are a number of medications used to treat the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These medications can be helpful in the early stages but their effectiveness generally declines over time.
The type of medication your physician may prescribe will depend on your symptoms and needs.
In the early stages of your Parkinson’s diagnosis, your physician may recommend lifestyle changes and interventions that may improve some symptoms of the disease, or may help with your daily life. Some supportive therapies commonly recommended are:
· Occupational therapy
· Speech and language therapy
· Dietary changes
When some patients find medication is not working as well for them anymore, deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery can be an option to help control the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s.
DBS is a form of treatment that sends electrical pulses to specific areas of the brain that control movement. This involves a surgical procedure to implant leads in the brain, connected to a neurostimulator device under the skin of the chest or abdomen.
The following organisations provide information and support to people who have Parkinson's disease and their families.