Parkinson’s disease is one of the most widespread neurological disorders in elderly people. It affects significant amount of people in USA and is one of the leading causes of death. More than 22,000 Americans died from Parkinson’s disease in 2010, which is 0.9% of total deaths in the United States and 7.1 per 100,000 population (“Death Rates in USA, 2010”). Parkinson’s disease significantly affects daily activities as it interferes with almost all of the aspects of everyday life. That is why it is very important to understand the cause and be able to distinguish symptoms and signs of Parkinson’s disease.
In patients with Parkinson’s disease severe brain changes occur that result in clinical manifestation. Malfunctions are caused by the structural changes in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra in the middle brain. The decreased level of dopamine (less than 20%) accompanied with neural cells death (more than 50%) can be located in the substantia nigra of the patients with Parkinson’s disease. Functional disturbances are caused by involving different parts of central nervous system in the process, such as primary motor cortex, supplementary motor area, some subcortical nuclei, substantia nigra, thalamus and subthalamic nucleus (Gilman et al. 238).
Actual causes of Parkinson’s disease are divided by Gilman et al. into several groups which include idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, hereditary Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonian syndromes, secondary parkinsonism (vascular, drug induced, postencephalitic, hydrocephalus) and disorders with associated parkinsonism (237). All the causes lead to the same changes in brain that influence functioning of different body systems.
Symptoms and Signs
Brain changes in patients with Parkinson’s disease cause the variety of symptoms and signs. Despite the widespread thought of Parkinson’s disease as motor disturbance associated with rest tremor, it involves much more malfunctions. Important criteria for Parkinson’s disease diagnosis are unilateral onset, long lasting disease (10 years and more), progression, and positive response to L-dopa. (Gilman et al. 239)
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include bradykinesia (slow initiation of voluntary movement with speed decrease) which is the main sign of the disease, rest tremor (75% of patients), anosmia (decreased sense of smell), constipation as one of the earliest symptoms, mild urinary symptoms (frequency and urgency), sleep disturbances, and cognitive disorders (memory loss, depression, dementia etc) (Gilman et al. 239).
Signs of Parkinson’s disease in addition to the symptoms mentioned above include rigidity (increased tone), cogwheeling, and postural hypotension that is usually mild but can be increased by dopamine agonists (Gilman et al. 239). The diagnosis is based on clinical ground as no specific test for Parkinson’s disease is developed; serum tests, copper level in blood and urine, autonomic function test and MRI may help in differential diagnostics (Gilman et al. 240).
Parkinson’s disease may result in a great variety of symptoms. Thus, it is necessary to obtain solid knowledge of the subject to be aware of all the faces of this disease. Investigation of the key points of Parkinson’s disease pathogenesis dramatically influences understanding of the entire process of the disorder. Together with the symptoms and signs it builds up the full picture of the disease and makes it possible to discover Parkinson disease in a person, estimate the flow of the disease, understand the main principles of its treatment, and suggest possible outcomes. Referring to the spread of this disease, understanding of Parkinson’s disease is important not just for healthcare providers, but for everyone.
Gilman S., Manji H., Connolly S., Dorward N., Kitchen N., Mehta A., Wills A. Oxford
American Handook of Neurology. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2010. Print
“LCWK9. Deaths, percent of total deaths, and death rates for the 15 leading causes of death: United States and each State, 2010”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Nov 2012. Web. 14 Jul 2013.