Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes shaking, stiffness, and trouble with walking, balance, and coordination, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

About half a million people in the United States are reported to be affected by Parkinson’s, but it’s possible that the numbers are much higher, according to NIH.

The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Bradykinesia – slowness of movement
  • Postural instability – impaired balance
  • Rigidity – stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Tremor – trembling in the arms, hands, head, jaw, and legs

The symptoms of Parkinson’s typically start out gradually and get worse over time, according to the NIH. Severe symptoms can cause difficulty walking and talking, and possibly also sleep problems, depression, memory trouble, and fatigue.

It is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s, and there is no cure, according to the NIH.

People who are 60 and older and women are more likely than others to develop Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon(NIH).

People are also at increased risk if they have some specific issues associated with Parkinson’s disease, according to the NIH, including:

  • A build-up of harmful proteins
  • A shortage of dopamine
  • Genetic mutations
  • Environmental toxins
  • Loss of norepinephrine

Though Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure, there are treatments, therapies, and lifestyle changes that can help with some of the symptoms.

One treatment for Parkinson’s disease is called deep brain stimulation (DBS). It’s a surgical procedure used to treat the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s, according to the National Institutes of Health(NIH).

With the surgery, an electrode is surgically implanted into the brain. It is connected to a wire implanted under the skin that connects to another implant in the chest, called a pulse generator, according to the NIH.

The system stimulates the brain to help stop Parkinson’s symptoms including tremor, bradykinesia, and rigidity, according to the NIH.

There is no scientific proof that specific changes in diet or exercise will improve Parkinson’s symptoms, according to the NIH. But, eating a healthy diet and being active will help improve a person’s overall well-being, including emotional well-being.

Physical, occupational, and speech therapies can all help with symptoms of Parkinson’s, according to the NIH. Some other therapies, including yoga, massage therapy, dancing, boxing, tai chi, hypnosis, and acupuncture all have shown some benefits from Parkinson’s symptoms but do not help slow the disease.

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes tremors, generally of both hands, but also the head and voice. It is often confused with Parkinson’s disease, but the tremor in essential tremor is an action tremor, which means that the tremor is most noticeable when the limb is in use or moving (e.g. writing, eating, drinking a glass of water) and improves when the limb is at rest. This is opposite of the tremor seen in Parkinson’s disease, which is most noticeable when the limbs are relaxed and at rest, and lessens when the affected limb is in use.

Up to 10 million Americans are estimated to have essential tremor; 10 times the number of people with Parkinson’s disease. ET affects males and females equally across a multiracial population. Individuals with a clear family history of tremor are at greater likelihood of developing ET. However, it can occur in individuals without a clear family history. While it can start at any age, onset is most common in middle age.

Typically, ET symptoms gradually worsen over time. While most people with ET only experience mild to moderate symptoms as they age, others may experience substantial disability. As it progresses, tremor frequency (number of repetitions per second) may decrease; however, tremor amplitude (magnitude/strength) may increase, which can cause challenges with fine, discrete motor skills such as writing or eating. With treatment, symptoms can be managed.

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited disorder that causes brain cells, called neurons, to die in various areas of the brain, including those that help to control voluntary (intentional) movement. Symptoms of the disease, which gets progressively worse, include uncontrolled movements (called chorea), abnormal body postures, and changes in behavior, emotion, judgment, and cognition. People with HD also develop impaired coordination, slurred speech, and difficulty feeding and swallowing. HD typically begins between ages 30 and 50. An earlier onset form called juvenile HD occurs under age 20.  Its symptoms differ somewhat from adult onset HD and include rigidity, slowness, difficulty at school, rapid involuntary muscle jerks called myoclonus, and seizures. More than 30,000 Americans have HD.

Huntington’s disease is caused by a mutation in the gene for a protein called huntingtin. The defect causes the cytosine, adenine, and guanine (CAG) building blocks of DNA to repeat many more times than is normal. Each child of a parent with HD has a 50-50 chance of inheriting the HD gene. A child who does not inherit the HD gene will not develop the disease and generally cannot pass it to subsequent generations. A person who inherits the HD gene will eventually develop the disease. HD is generally diagnosed based on a genetic test, medical history, brain imaging, and neurological and laboratory tests.

There is no treatment that can stop or reverse the course of HD. Tetrabenazine and deuterabenazine can treat chorea associated with HD. Antipsychotic drugs may ease chorea and help to control hallucinations, delusions, and violent outbursts. Drugs may be prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. Consult with your neurologist to discuss how treatments may help to ease the symptoms of HD.
Getting a correct diagnosis is important as many people mistakenly self-diagnose themselves with the wrong thing and lose precious time that could be used to begin treatments and medications that can help to slow the onset of some conditions. Your neurologist can help to ensure you have the correct diagnosis so that you can begin the correct treatments, medications, or lifestyle changes as soon as possible to allow you to maintain your quality of life for as long as is possible with these conditions. If you are concerned about any of these movement disorders, contact Community Neuro Center today to setup a consultation with our neurologists.