Though PD could be due to genetic factors, its specific cause is still unknown

Boxing great Muhammad Ali has it, so does actor Michael J. Fox of the science fiction movie series Back to the Future. Thanks to the efforts of such celebrities, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is very well documented in the West.

This, however, is not the case back home where patients and their families struggle owing to lack of awareness, support groups and allied medical services.

Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic degenerative neurological disorder that impacts motor or movement.

Cause unknown

“The specific cause behind Parkinson’s Disease is yet to be pinned down. In some cases, however, Parkinson’s Disease could be due to genetic factors.

In our research, we have also observed that 20 per cent of Parkinson’s Disease patients have family history. There is a lot more research required to fully understand Parkinson’s Disease,” says Dr. K. Rukmini Mridula, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, NIMS.

According to the neuro specialist, Parkinson’s Disease damages a specific region of the brain called Substantia Nigra.

“This region produces dopamine, a chemical responsible for motor movements of the body. Loss of dopamine causes patients to lose control of their movements,” explained Dr. Rukmini during a talk on neuro-degenerative diseases, organised by Andhra Pradesh Homeopathic Association.

Ageing is a huge risk factor that increases chances of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Apart from ageing, other risk factors include head trauma, exposure to pesticides, working in farms and exposure to metals like manganese and iron. Interestingly, Parkinson’s is more common in men than women,” the neuro-specialist said.

The typical symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are characterized by unusual stiffness in limbs, uncontrolled movement of limbs, difficulty standing, walking and lack of co-ordination in movement and gait.

“In some cases, patients lose their ability to smell and suffer from depression and anxiety.

“Patients are entirely dependant on their families for survival,” she added.

There are very few therapeutic options that can be utilized for management of patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

Some of them are physical and speech therapy, stretching, strengthening and balance training to improve gait. Specific voice training can be effective to treat voice- and speech-related disorders. Parkinson’s Disease patients also suffer from constipation, which can be addressed through high-fibre diet.

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