In 1817, James Parkinson first described this clinical syndrome that would be named after him. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system which is characterised by degeneration and it mainly affects the motor system. Parkinson’s has four major clinical manifestations:
- Tremor at rest
- Postural instability
Parkinson’s disease is often associated with the elderly and has an average onset at the age of 55. It is commonly thought that the neuropathology of Parkinson’s disease is solely characterised by the loss of dopaminergic neurons, although the degeneration of neurons actually extends beyond these neurons. 2
The motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s involve rigidity or involuntary movements. These symptoms may have an immense impact on a person’s life especially when it comes to completing everyday activities that they used to do effortlessly.
In the advanced stages of disease dementia and depression may occur and other symptoms like sleep problems, sensory disturbances and emotional problems may complicate the situation even further.
The non-motor symptoms may include:
- Automatic dysfunction
- Attention Deficit
- Difficulties planning and carrying out ordinary tasks
- Impaired Vision
- Reduced sense of smell
- REM sleep-behavioural-disorder
The burden of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease has a considerable cost and care burden on the community, especially when the course of the disorder is prolonged. It also has a great personal burden as day-to-day activities become increasingly difficult to complete and it also takes a psychological toll on people who suffer from this disorder.
Think about it:
- Someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease may not even be able to cross a street without “freezing” in their steps.
- People suffering from this disorder may not be able to do shopping as they may experience involuntary (unannounced) hand or arm movements.
Even though neuroprotective drug treatments do not exist, some drugs are used to control the symptoms especially in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Non-drug therapies play a significant part in the management of the disorder and life quality can be improved through these methods.
Counselling and education
Educating and counselling both the patients and the caretakers plays a significant role in the management of Parkinson’s disease. Such educating practices may provide information on what types of drug need to be avoided because of mixed interactions or negative effects on the disease process. Counselling forms an important part in the management of non-motor symptoms like depression, anxiety, dementia and cognitive dysfunction.
Keeping fit may also be beneficial for the health and well-being of someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease in order to maintain strength and core balance that may help with postural stability and gait.
Physiotherapy may help to improve motor functioning and strategies to overcome disabilities like freezing of gait and start hesitancy may also help in the management of motor symptoms.3
World Parkinson’s Day
World Parkinson’s day is an awareness event that aims to inform people of the severity of the symptoms experienced by someone with Parkinson’s disease. People should be made aware of this condition and all that comes with it so that they can offer support to those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. They should know about the motor symptoms as well as the non-motor symptoms and about the side-effects of some of the medications that form part and parcel of the condition.
This day will also provide the opportunity to raise money for the research and management of Parkinson’s disease.
We hope that Parkinson’s Awareness Day will influence people to take part in this initiative and that they realize that they can make a difference in the lives of people suffering from this disorder. 4
- Jankovic J. Parkinson’s disease: clinical features and diagnosis. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 2008 Apr 1; vol. 79(4): 368-76.
- Dauer W, Przedborski S. Parkinson’s disease: mechanisms and models. Neuron. 2003 Sep 11; vol. 39(6): 889-909.
- Sellbach A, et al. Management of Parkinson’s disease. Australian prescriber. December2012; vol. 35(6): 183-188.
- What health. World Parkinson’s Day 2016. [Available from: http://www.whathealth.com/awareness/event/worldparkinsonsday.html]