Parkinson’s Disease (or PD) has been much more prevalent in the media in recent years with several high-profile cases being reported. In recent times, the actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali have both made great steps in promoting awareness of the disease and the different ways in which it can affect the person involved along with their friends and family.
The basics of what causes Parkinson’s cannot exactly be described as basic in the true sense of the word. The things that one should remember about the disease is that it is chronic and progressive; in simple terms this essentially means that once it is diagnosed, there is simply no coming back – not for the time being anyway. The progressive nature of the disease means that in all cases, the symptoms worsen over time. There is a small area of nerve cells located in a certain part of the brain that usually produce a chemical called dopamine. When in full working order, the dopamine is responsible for sending signals around the brain that control muscle movement. When Parkinson’s Disease hits, it does so by rendering these nerve cells redundant, thereby restricting the amount of dopamine produced. Because of this, body movements are greatly affected.
This change in muscle movement is one of the main symptoms that can easily be spotted with someone affected by the disease. In many cases, the muscles can appear rigid and thus affect the way the person moves; there is also a tendency for those afflicted by PD to be subject to tremors – something that is very prevalent in the case of Muhammad Ali. In addition to this, a person’s speech can also be greatly affected as well as their propensity to lose balance and fall more often.
These symptoms are all relatively simple to spot in somebody that you know very well. The onset of PD to those affected is generally around the age of 60, but there are an increasing number of diagnoses for those around the age of 50 and some much younger; Michael J. Fox, for example was just 30 when he was diagnosed with the disease although this was not made public until he approached his 40th birthday.
There are many hidden symptoms of the disease which also need to be brought to light for people to understand exactly how sufferers can be affected – this will lead to greater knowledge for family and friends alike. Knowledge of the disease however, is increasing, and this is leading to greater amounts of detailed research which will hopefully allow for improvements in treatment to be found sooner rather than later. Any information that can be gathered about the disease can be used to improve the way of life for sufferers and their carers and hopefully one day – in the not too distant future – a cure can be found.