Parkinsonism: Understanding the symptoms

The most common type of Parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, which affects approximately 1 per cent of people over the age of 60.
Parkinsonism: Understanding the symptoms

KOCHI: Parkinsonism is a neurological disorder that affects movements of the body. It is characterised by the progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, resulting in tremors, slowness of activities, stiffness of the limbs and difficulty with coordination and balance.

The most common type of Parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, which affects approximately 1 per cent of people over the age of 60.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Parkinsonism typically begin with mild tremors in one hand or arm, which may progress to affect both sides of the body over the years. Other common symptoms include stiffness in the limbs, slowness of movement and thought, difficulty with balance and coordination, and a shuffling gait.

Non-motor symptoms

Parkinson’s disease is often associated with motor symptoms, such as tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement) and postural instability. However, many non-motor symptoms can also occur, some of which may appear before motor symptoms develop. It is important to discuss any non-motor symptoms with a healthcare professional, as they can impact quality of life and may require specific management strategies.

  • Many experience sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Some may experience cognitive changes, such as difficulty with memory

  • Loss of sense of smell is an early symptom

  • Constipation is a common symptom

  • Fatigue can impact the quality of life

  • Urinary problems, such as urgency, frequency, and incontinence, are common

  • Sexual dysfunction can also occur in patients

Treatment

There are currently a variety of treatments that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, the age, overall health of the patient, and other individual factors. It is important to work closely with a healthcare professional to develop an individualised treatment plan.

Medications: Several types of medications are available to increase dopamine levels in the brain

Deep brain stimulation (DBS): This surgical procedure involves implanting a device in the brain that sends electrical signals to help control tremors and other symptoms

Physical therapy: Exercise and physical therapy can help improve mobility, strength, balance, and coordination

Speech therapy: Speech therapy can help improve speech and swallowing difficulties

Occupational therapy: To develop strategies to manage daily activities

Lifestyle modifications: A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques can also help manage symptoms.

Role of exercise

Exercise can play an important role in managing the symptoms. Here are some specific benefits of exercise:

  • Improved mobility

  • Reduced stiffness

  • Improved cardiovascular health

  • Improved mood

  • Increased neuroplasticity

  • It is important to work with a physiotherapist to develop an exercise plan.

Mind and body

Got health concerns you want to share with a doctor? Are you looking for credible answers regarding symptoms, medicines or lifestyle disorders? Write to us on cityexpresskoc@newindianexpress.com, and we will get healthcare professionals to answer them.

The writer is a senior consultant in the department of neurology at KIMSHEALTH

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