Parkinson’s is a disease which affects the dopamine producing neurons located in a particular region of our brain known as the substantia nigra. During the early stages, the tremors are hardly noticeable, but they gradually tend to increase over a period, if they are left neglected. Not all individuals diagnosed with the disease experience all the symptoms, and the symptoms also vary in the form of severity and progression.
Many of our simple daily tasks are also affected due to this disease such as; our ability to walk, talk and even sleep , if the disease isn’t addressed during its early stages.
Being aware of what you need to look out for, can help you control this disease successfully.
Stages of Parkinson’s disease
There are 5 stages in Parkinson’s disease:
- Stage 1 is the earliest stages in Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms are still mild, and can be only seen on one side of the body. There is usually very minimal impairment, or no functional impairment at all. If the individual doesn’t seek medical attention immediately then, the symptoms may worsen over time, and cause intermittent tremors in one hand, leg, even cause rigidity and they may also feel clumsier than usual. The first stage is a bit tricky to diagnose, and the physician may ask the individual to wait before confirming the diagnosis.
Stage 2 in Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the symptoms showing on both sides of the body. The symptoms may develop in months or years, after stage 1 of Parkinson’s disease has been diagnosed. Symptoms experienced during this stage are loss of facial expression on both sides of the face, decreased blinking, abnormality in speech, monotone voice, slurring while speaking, stiffness, rigidity in muscles, which results in neck and back pain. And, this later on affects the body’s posture and limits day-to-day activities.
- Stage 3 is the mid-stage of Parkinson’s disease and is characterized by slowness in movement, and loss of balance. The balance in the body is usually compromised by the decrease in rapid movements, automatic and involuntary adjustments. The diagnosis by the doctor is usually determined by checking the patient’s impairment in reflexes, and by analyzing their body’s balance by tugging on the patient’s shoulders. During this stage the individual is still able to take care of their daily needs, activities, dressing, hygiene and eating.
- Stage 4 is considered to be the progressive stage in Parkinson’s disease, where the patient is unable to walk, sit and stand without assistance. At this stage, the patient is unable to live a fully independent life, and needs constant assistance to complete his or her daily activities.
- Stage 5 is one of the advanced stages in Parkinson’s disease, and is characterized by the inability of the patient to rise while sitting in a chair, or getting out of bed without any help. They are more vulnerable to falling, while standing, may freeze or stumble when there is no assistance. One of the most advanced symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. Not all the symptoms listed may affect an individual, and it usually varies from person-to-person.
However, the earlier the diagnosis is initiated, the better it is for the individual, so that the disease doesn’t progress and affect one’s livelihood.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
The symptoms of Parkinson’s can differ from person to person, and it depends on the severity of the disease.
Here are a few common signs of Parkinson’s:
Bradykinesia or Slow movements: This is one of the most typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Even simple tasks may take longer than usual. In the beginning, there are minimal symptoms, but it slowly worsens with time. The person may also develop a stooped posture, and have frequent pain in the neck and back. They may eventually lose their ability to even step out of the chair by themselves, and also experience akinesia, or freezing (not being able to move at all).
- Rigid Muscles: Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body and cause discomfort and minimize ability to move around freely. Muscle rigidity also limits the normal range of motion and causes pain. This symptom of Parkinson’s disease is often mistaken for arthritis, and the rigidity of muscles in Parkinson’s begins in the hands, one side of the body, legs and the neck.
- Tremors: One of the known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are the tremors. It usually begins with one finger and gradually spreads to the whole arm. This makes it highly difficult for the individual to eat, drive, or even write on a daily basis when the tremors are severe. Hands, arms, legs, lips, tongue, and jaw become shaky when they are not in use.
- A Decrease in Involuntary Movements: The patient may also experience a decrease in performing movements like smiling, swinging of arms, blinking, etc. They may also speak quickly, slur, and hesitate before talking.
Causes of Parkinson’s
The real cause of Parkinson’s disease is yet unknown, but many factors play a vital role. Some of them are said to be:
- Genes: Researchers have identified that some genetic mutations could be a cause for Parkinson’s disease to occur, but this can be seen only in rare cases where Parkinson’s disease has affected many family members.
- Age: People who are above the age of 60, have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
If you experience, or notice any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, then it is highly imperative to seek a doctor’s advice. Since there is no clear test for Parkinson’s disease, the doctor is bound to assess the situation based on the symptoms, and health history of the patient.
It is advisable to consult a neurologist for the same. The doctor might use Hoehn and Yahr scale that will provide him/ her clarity about the stage of the disease. Parkinson’s disease unfortunately can’t be cured, but getting the right medication and medical support, will definitely improve the symptoms, and not let the disease progress any further.