Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease that occurs when certain neurons in the brain die or become impaired, affects movement. A study in Singapore indicated that Parkinson’s disease is as commonly as in the West. Three out of every thousand adults over the age of 50 live with this disease. As Singapore’s population is increasingly aging, the number of patients with Parkinson’s disease and related disorders will climb. As with many other medical conditions, this disease is currently unable to be cured. However, there is a variety of treatments available to alleviate symptoms and improve daily function.
Symptoms of Parkinson Disease
Parkinson’s disease impacts patients in various ways. Not everyone will suffer all the symptoms of Parkinson’s and the progression of the disease can also change greatly from one to another. However, in most cases, seniors with Parkinson’s disease will experience the following symptoms.
- Tremors are the most popular symptom of Parkinson’s disease and often occur in the hands, fingers, thumb, forearms, feet, lips, or chin. Typically, twitching or shaking of limbs is a common early sign of Parkinson’s disease.
- Slow movement (Bradykinesia) – Over time, Parkinson’s disease may reduce patients’ ability to move and slow their movements such as standing up, walking, and sitting down. This happens due to delayed transmission signals from the brain to the muscles. Initially, this can make walking difficult and drag their feet as they try to walk
- Rigid muscles – also known as muscle stiffness, affects the limbs and trunk, causes muscle pain that increases during movement.
- Poor balance – happens due to the absence of reflexes that help posture. This results in impaired balance, which can often cause falls, along with poor coordination.
- Small Handwriting – A sudden change in handwriting as letter sizes are smaller and the words are cramped may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.
- Slurred Speech – Patients experience speech problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease. They may speak with a soft and low voice or hesitate before talking. Consequently, sometimes they might think others are losing their hearing.
Treatment for Parkinson Disease
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are several effective medications and other types of treatment available that can be useful in easing the symptoms of the disease.
Commonly used medications for Parkinson’s disease
Doctors will recommend the most appropriate medications based on each patient’s symptoms, age and other medical conditions. Here are commonly used medications for Parkinson’s disease:
- Levodopa/Carbidopa (Sinemet)
- Entacapone (Comtan)
- Dopamine agonists
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO-B inhibitors)
Surgical treatment for Parkinson’s disease
There are some surgical procedures for patients with Parkinson’s disease, the most common of which is known as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). This form of surgery involves placing a thin, insulated wire into the brain connected to a pacemaker-type device implanted just below the skin in the chest. DBS may help to reduce the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease of muscle rigidity, tremor, walking problems and slowness of movements. It can also help stabilize medication fluctuations. As with any surgery, DBS comes with risks, including the risk of infection. Currently, the procedure is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications.