After graduating from UNC Wilmington with a degree in Exercise Science I moved to Raleigh to start a career as a personal trainer. I worked at a big box gym Read more...
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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. The disease is caused by damage of the neurons in the brain that controls movement. When the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, which results in Parkinson’s. The nerve endings that produce norepinephrine are also damaged (norepinephrine is responsible for controlling functions such as heart rate and blood pressure). The stages of Parkinson’s are 1 - mild with no symptoms, 2 - symptoms such as muscle stiffness and changes in facial expressions, 3 - symptoms interfere with daily activities, 4 - great difficulty standing without a walker or assistive device, 5 - severe symptoms such as hallucinations & psychosis, and a wheelchair is most likely required. The risk factors for Parkinson’s are age (over 60 years, although it can also affect younger people); genetics; and environmental triggers e.g. exposure to toxins such as herbicides and pesticides. Symptoms include tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head; limb stiffness; slow movement, impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls. It can also cause depression, difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions. There are no diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s; it is usually diagnosed based on medical history and a neurological examination by a neurologist. There is no cure for Parkinson's, but it can be treated by: Medicines - drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain and help control nonmotor symptoms e.g. Carbidopa-levodopa, Dopamine agonists to mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain, MAO-B inhibitors to slow down an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain, and Amantadine to reduce involuntary movements; Surgical treatment - e.g. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) which is implantation of electrodes into a part of the brain that is connected to a small electrical device implanted in the chest. The device and electrodes painlessly stimulate the brain to stop the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s. It is also recommended to consult the help of a physical, occupational, and speech therapies to assist with associated symptoms.