Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that affects nearly one million Americans currently. Due to the nature of PD, the symptoms worsen over time, which can significantly decrease ones quality of life and make it difficult to perform many daily living activities such as driving and getting dressed on their own. PD affects neurons in the brain causing them to die off. Some of these neurons produce dopamine which controls movement. The impaired movement that is typical in people living with Parkinson’s is due to the dying off of these particular neurons. With decreased amounts of dopamine, coordination becomes affected. There is currently no cure for PD but there are many ways to maintain your lifestyle.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
There are four main motor symptoms associated with PD. The most common and the one you may notice first is tremors of the extremities. Other things to look for are muscle stiffness, slowness of movement and loss of coordination. A person does not have to exhibit all of these symptoms to be given a diagnosis of PD. A neurologist specializing in movement disorders will make the determination on an individual, case-by-case basis. Many patients see their family doctor first before being referred to a neurologist for further testing. This process can often be long and frustrating for people living with the symptoms of PD as there is no specific test to diagnosis Parkinson’s. The neurologist will take a neurological history and perform an examination. It is possible that diagnostic testing will occur during this process but that will be to rule out other diseases that may present with symptoms similar to PD.
Living with PD
Living with Parkinson’s is at times a struggle but it is possible to take measures to maintain the quality of life that you are accustomed to. As with most things we hear about these days, maintaining a healthy diet is so important. There is no specific or special diet for people living with PD but studies show that maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet is very beneficial. By eating a proper diet, PD medications can work more effectively, you have more energy and therefore your body can work more efficiently. Exercising has also been shown to have a positive effect on people living with PD. Exercise will increase strength and improve flexibility and mobility. As always, consult with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program. Certain things will need to be taken into consideration before beginning any program such as age, level of fitness and your current symptoms.
If you are concerned that you may be exhibiting signs of PD or would like more information on how to locate a specialist, contact the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation at 1-(800)-457-6676.
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