What Is Parkinson’s Disease? What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects how the person moves, including how they speak and write. Symptoms develop gradually, and may start off with ever-so-slight tremors in one hand. People with Parkinson's disease also experience stiffness and find they cannot carry out movements as rapidly as before - this is called bradykinesia. The muscles of a person with Parkinson's become weaker and the individual may assume an unusual posture.
Parkinson's disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. Movement disorders describe a variety of abnormal body movements that have a neurological basis, and include such conditions as cerebral palsy, ataxia, and Tourette syndrome.
Approximately one million adults in the USA are thought to live with Parkinson's disease; over 60,000 are diagnosed annually. The real figure is probably much higher when taking into account those who go undetected. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, the economic toll of the disease in the USA is nearly $25 billion annually, including direct and indirect costs. The average annual medication costs for an American with Parkinson's disease is between $2,500 and $10,000.
In the United Kingdom approximately 127,000 people have Parkinson's disease - or 1 in every 500 people. About 10 million people around the world are estimated to be living with Parkinson's disease.
A male has a 50% higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease than a female.
In the majority of cases, symptoms start to appear after the age of 50. However, in about 4% to 5% of cases the sufferer is younger than 40 years. When signs and symptoms develop in an individual aged between 21 and 40 years, it is known as Young-onset Parkinson's disease.
Apart from tremor and slow movements, the patient may also have a fixed, inexpressive face - this is because of poorer control over facial muscle coordination and movement. Sir William Richard Gowers Parkinson Disease sketch 1886 2 People with Parkinson's generally have an unusual, stooping posture
As a significant number of elderly patients with early Parkinson's disease symptoms assume that their traits may form part of normal aging and do not seek medical help, obtaining accurate statistics is probably impossible. There are also several different conditions which sometimes have comparable signs and symptoms to Parkinson's, such as drug-induced Parkinsonism, head trauma, encephalitis, stroke, Lewy body dementia, corticobasal degeneration, multiple system atrophy, and progressive supranuclear pasly.
Parkinson's also affects the voice - a British mathematician believes he has created a cheap and easy to carry-out test using speech signal processing algorithms to accelerate the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Max Little, who developed the algorithm at Oxford University, says that Parkinson's not only impacts on limb movement, but also on how people speak; on their voices. (Link to article)
Parkinson's also affects sense of smell - despite being incurable, doctors today can influence the course of the disease if Parkinson's is detected early enough; the destruction of brain cells can be slowed down - this means a better quality of life for the patient for many years. Scientists have recently discovered that hyposmia, losing one's sense of smell for no known cause, might be a marker for the non-motor signs of Parkinson's disease. The scientists said "Smelling tests in doctors' offices are suitable for detecting hyposmia, but so too are tests conducted in public places such as pedestrian zones." (Link to article) Some factors may raise or lower the risk of developing Parkinson's Circumin - an ingredient found in the spice turmeric, is apparently effective in preventing the clumping of a protein involved in Parkinson's disease, according to scientists from Michigan State University. (Link to article)...
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