For a disease that reports around 1 million cases each year in India, Parkinson’s disease is not that well-known. Anne Hathaway famously depicted a Parkinson’s disease patient in the 2010 Hollywood movie, Love and Other Drugs. Not only does she portray the trademark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease–tremors, limb stiffness, balance issues–but she also depicts the hopelessness that one feels because the disease has no cure.
What does a person do when they know that they are slowly dying from an incurable disease? The movie presents an interesting perspective on this question.
How do you know if you have Parkinson’s disease?
It is not easy to diagnose Parkinson’s disease because each patient exhibits relatively different symptoms. A neurologist who specializes in the disease is the best person to correctly diagnose a Parkinson’s patient. A doctor first rules out all other nerve disorders before arriving at a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
In the early stages of the disease:
- Primary motor symptoms occur (rapid steps while shuffling, slouched forward while walking)
- Behavioral problems
- Difficulty thinking
Tremors usually occur when the patient is resting and disappear when the patient is moving or is asleep. A phenomenon called pill-rolling is seen, wherein the index finger meets the thumb and makes a circular movement. The name of the phenomenon originates from the earlier manual method of making pills.
Initially, the patient has trouble with simple, everyday tasks such as getting dressed, writing, or sewing.
In the late stages of the disease:
- Dementia occurs in at least 1/3rd of all patients
Balance issues become dangerous in late-stage Parkinson’s disease patients because they lead to frequent falls and consequently, fractures.
- Sleep disturbance
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known. It is thought to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental causes. The motor symptoms are caused by the death of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.
Neurons produce a substance called dopamine, which is necessary for the brain to coordinate movement and function in the body. When neurons die, the amount of dopamine produced decreases. Thus, the brain is unable to control the body’s movement and function.
As the disease progresses, the patient finds it difficult to carry on with daily life.
Can I inherit Parkinson’s from my family members?
Parkinson’s disease is not considered to be an inherited disease. However, the disease does have a genetic component.
- If you have a parent or sibling with Parkinson’s disease, you have a 4%-9% higher chance of developing the disease than those who do not.
- Men are more likely to have Parkinson’s disease as compared to women.
What are the risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease?
Do you suspect that you or a loved one may be affected by Parkinson’s disease? Talk to our expert clinical psychologists at Askmile anonymously and for free!