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An Overview of Parkinson’s Disease and Treatments

Affecting over 60,000 Americans yearly, Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that deteriorates the neurons in one’s brain. Early signs of Parkinson’s Disease include slight tremors and stiffness in the muscles. Research into Parkinson’s Disease in recent years has uncovered many possible treatments.

By Saharsh Satheesh

Published 11:11 EST, Tues November 2nd, 2021

Introduction

Affecting over 60,000 Americans yearly, Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative condition that deteriorates the neurons in one’s brain. Early signs of Parkinson’s Disease include slight tremors and stiffness in the muscles. Research into Parkinson’s Disease in recent years has uncovered many possible treatments.

Causes

As with any disease, it is crucial to discover its causes. In the case of Parkinson’s, one major cause that was discovered was genetics; according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, “Genetics cause about 10 to 15 percent of all Parkinson’s. Over the years, scientists have studied DNA from people with Parkinson’s, comparing their genes. They discovered dozens of gene mutations linked to Parkinson’s.”

Another cause of Parkinson’s is environmental factors. These environmental factors include exposure to certain chemicals or brain damage. Getting Parkinson’s Disease from this is rarer than from genetics, although it is still possible.

There are also certain factors that can put you at a greater chance of getting Parkinson’s. For example, it has been found that men tend to be at a greater risk for developing Parkinson’s than women. In addition, those older — generally at least the age of 60 — tend to have a greater chance of getting Parkinson’s than those who are not.

Complications

Parkinson’s disease will bring on numerous complications. Some of these include swallowing issues, rigid limbs, bladder issues, and sleep problems, among a plethora of others. However, Parkinson’s Disease is not a disease that results in death, so it is important to attempt to live one’s best life while having the disease. 

In a New York Times article, a person with Parkinson’s Disease explains how “[they have] learned to live, albeit with a modicum of trepidation, with the disease. After all, everybody has something wrong with them, even if the worst is acne – and some things are worse than others. [Their] life has not radically altered. Still, [they are] aware that things can change. What’s more, a combination of PD and getting older has cut into [their] productivity. But at least [they are] productive”.

Another person in the same article recounts how after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, they “[had] to ‘reorder [their] priorities,’ as the expression goes. What it means is that [they are] going to have to dedicate more time to exercise every day of the week. The prospect of working out regularly fills [them] with terror. [They] find the idea of having to confront my demise daily totally depressing. With PD, physical exertion is supposed to be a mood upper.”

Although Parkinson’s is certainly a debilitating disease, there is still lots of hope, and since the disease itself does not cause death, it is important to keep an open mind and attempt to overcome everyday obstacles to live as regular a life as possible.

Treatments

Apart from medications, one common treatment — as stated in the above quote by a Parkinson’s disease patient — is exercise. Research has found that exercise especially can aid in Parkinson’s Disease patients’ improvement of balance and mobility.

Another possible treatment that research has been looking into in recent years is audio cueing, which is the use of music and its rhythms to improve the gait of those afflicted by Parkinson’s. A research paper in Nature explains that “of 4204 records, 50 studies, involving 1892 participants met our inclusion criteria. The analysis revealed an overall positive effect on gait velocity, stride length, and a negative effect on cadence with the application of auditory cueing. Neurophysiological mechanisms, training dosage, effects of higher information processing constraints, and use of cueing as an adjunct with medications are thoroughly discussed. This present review bridges the gaps in the literature by suggesting the application of rhythmic auditory cueing in conventional rehabilitation approaches to enhance motor performance and quality of life in the parkinsonian community.”

Conclusion

Parkinson’s Disease is undoubtedly a serious disease with causes including genetics and environmental factors. Complications caused by the disease include swallowing issues, rigid limbs, bladder issues, and sleep problems, among a plethora of others. Fortunately, Parkinson’s is a disease that itself does not cause one’s death, so with the Diseaseregiment, it is possible to continue to live a normal life — although some lifestyle changes would likely need to occur. Apart from medications, there are emerging treatments, including some gaining traction in recent years such as audio cueing. 

Saharsh Satheesh, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

Almeida, Maria Joao. “Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise.” Parkinson’s News Today, 1 June 2017, parkinsonsnewstoday.com/parkinsons-disease-and-exercise/#:~:text=Exercise%20is%20important%20for%20people,in%20their%20quality%20of%20life.

“Causes.” Parkinson’s Foundation, http://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Causes.

Ghai, Shashank, et al. “Effect of Rhythmic Auditory Cueing on Parkinsonian Gait: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 11 Jan. 2018, http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16232-5.

Heller, Steven, and Véronique Vienne. “What It Feels like to Live with Parkinson’s.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 June 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/06/23/well/parkinsons-letters.html.

Naqvi, Erum. “Parkinson’s Disease Statistics.” Parkinson’s News Today, 6 Aug. 2018, parkinsonsnewstoday.com/parkinsons-disease-statistics/.

“Parkinson’s Disease.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Dec. 2020, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055#:~:text=In%20Parkinson’s%20disease%2C%20certain%20nerve,in%20your%20brain%20called%20dopamine.

“What Is Parkinson’s?” Parkinson’s Foundation, http://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons. 

By Saharsh Satheesh

Saharsh Satheesh is a junior in high school. He has a passion for biology and plans to study medicine in college.

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