Parkinson’s disease is a well-known degenerative disorder and one of the three major geriatric conditions. Commonly associated with difficulties in movement, tremors, and cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease is often suspected when these symptoms arise. However, the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease are varied, making it challenging to identify. Let’s explore Parkinson’s disease in detail.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary greatly among patients and can differ based on the progression of the disease. Professor Park Sang-min from Daejeon National Hospital’s Neurology Department explains that while there is no clear evidence of a correlation between symptom onset and age, it may play a role in some cases.
For instance, individuals who develop Parkinson’s disease at a younger age often experience more pronounced tremors compared to those who develop it later in life. Late-onset cases tend to exhibit more severe motor symptoms, such as gait disturbances and balance issues. In addition to motor symptoms, non-motor symptoms like depression, sleep disorders, autonomic dysfunction, and memory impairments can accompany the disease. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, there is a greater possibility of developing cognitive impairments like dementia.
Premonitory symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can manifest as early as ten years before major symptoms appear. These premonitory symptoms include abnormal movements, tremors, gait disturbances, and balance issues. Professor Park explains, “Approximately ten years before the onset of major symptoms, the brain begins to deteriorate, and this is when signs of the disease become noticeable.”
Recognizing premonitory symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be challenging. Some of the signs to watch out for include severe sleep talking (REM sleep behavior disorder), olfactory dysfunction (loss of smell), and constipation. Particularly, sleep talking characterized by shouting or intense leg movements is a significant premonitory symptom. These symptoms may go unnoticed during the prodromal or asymptomatic phase.
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease encompasses various approaches, including medication and surgery, aimed at managing symptoms and improving patients’ quality of life. The most common treatment is pharmacotherapy, which involves increasing dopamine levels in the brain to alleviate motor symptoms.
In cases where medication becomes less effective or when complications like dyskinesias arise, surgery may be considered. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a notable surgical treatment that involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain to regulate neural activity. Professor Park emphasizes that not all patients are suitable for surgery, and the decision depends on factors such as age, symptom severity, and concurrent conditions.
Exercise plays a crucial role in Parkinson’s disease management and is considered a fundamental non-pharmacological intervention. Regular exercise helps delay disease progression and maintains muscle mass, preventing loss of mobility and aiding in the patient’s mental well-being.
Proven exercises for Parkinson’s disease include yoga, taekwondo, resistance training, and treadmill exercises. It is important to consider one’s physical condition when choosing an exercise method. Regularity is key, and when patients have confidence in their exercise routine, the benefits are maximized. It is also advisable to seek guidance from professionals, such as certified instructors or physical therapists, to develop a tailored exercise plan.
Professor Park concludes, “The symptoms and disease progression of Parkinson’s disease can significantly differ based on the patient’s determination. With a wide range of effective treatments and medications available, consistent and continuous treatment under the supervision of specialists can lead to an improved quality of life.”