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Parkinson’s Disease

  • What is Parkinson’s Disease?

    Parkinson’s disease is a common degenerative neurological disorder that affects more than 4 million people around the world. It is characterised by abnormal body movements. There is currently no cure but certain medications and treatment options are available to alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of daily life. Parkinson's disease affects patients in different ways. For some, associated disabilities or limitations to normal daily activities may take years to develop.

    Sleep problems may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, even before motor (movement) symptoms have begun. These include:

    • Daytime sleepiness
    • Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep)
    • Nightmares
    • Sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing during sleep)
  • Parkinson’s disease is caused by the progressive degeneration of a structure in the brain called the substantia nigra. This structure is responsible for producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that controls movement. Lack or low levels of dopamine trigger symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The underlying cause of this degeneration is not yet fully understood. 

    Continuing studies are investigating the potential links between Parkinson’s disease and risk factors such as ageing, environmental toxins and free radicals. Genetic causes are also being examined. However, only a small percentage of Parkinson’s disease patients have a family history of the disease.

  • The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:

    • Difficulty in balancing when walking or standing
    • Drooling and difficulty in swallowing
    • Emotionless face
    • Shaking of arms and legs (when at rest)
    • Slow movement (ie. slow walking)
    • Stiff neck, legs and body
  • Your doctor will evaluate your condition and suggest treatment depending on your symptoms, age and other medical conditions. Treatment may include:

    • Deep brain stimulation, which uses electrical pulses to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
      1. Electric pulses block abnormal brain signals that could be causing the neurological disorder
    • Dopaminergic therapy, which uses medication to compensate for lost dopamine
      1. Dopamine agonists mimic the action of natural dopamine
      2. Levodopa therapy delivers dopamine to the brain
    • Non-dopaminergic therapy, which uses medications that do not directly involve dopamine
      1. Amantadine drug increases the release of dopamine or inhibits the release of another neurotransmitter called glutamate
      2. Anti-cholinergic drugs inhibit the action of another neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine, which becomes more active when dopamine levels decrease
    • Treatment of movement disorders with oral medications or injections, which reduce the frequency and severity of abnormal movements
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