Parkinson’s disease is a neurological degenerative disease that often develops gradually, starting with a barely noticeable tremor. But although an individual may notice the tremor first, upon further examination with a physician, doctors are often able to discern earlier symptoms which indicate the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Family members can also notice that your faith begins to show little or no expression and that your arms don’t swing when you walk. Speech will often become soft and mumbling and individuals can begin to have difficulty with swallowing.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are a result of the loss of a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a chemical in the neurological system that is basically a chemical messenger. These messengers communicate across the neurological synapses to produce muscular movements. In this instance the neurotransmitter which is lacking is called dopamine.
There are specific brain cells that produce dopamine in the brain making the neurotransmitter unavailable for use. When these specific brain cells die or become impaired dopamine is no longer produced, or usable by the brain. This loss of dopamine results in the symptoms which individuals experience when they have Parkinson’s disease.
The area of the brain that produces dopamine is called the substantia nigra. The dopamine is responsible for the coordination of bodily movements. Other centers of the brain that control body movements are affected when dopamine is no longer available.
Although scientists are able to pinpoint why the dopamine is no longer being produced they are on able to determine a cause for the death of his substantia nigra and the subsequent loss of dopamine. This lack of ability to document a cause for cell damage is called idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, which means no specific causes found.
Rarely however, causes such as head trauma, toxins or drugs can induce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. At other times there are genetic causes that may be suspected.
In the case of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease some researchers theorize that free radicals, those molecules which are unstable and potentially damaging at the electron level, are responsible for damaging the substantia nigra.
Others believe that dysfunctional anti-oxidative mechanisms, also associated with free radicals, that are associated with Walter age may suggest that the acceleration of age-related dopamine production can be a factor.
Research is currently under way to evaluate exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides that may inhibit dopamine production and produce free radicals.
Approximately 1/5 of patients with Parkinson’s disease have at least one relative with the symptoms suggesting that a genetic factor may be involved. However, at this period no genetic markers have been identified.
For the most part however, researchers believe that most cases are not caused by genetic factors alone. This means that although an individual may be predisposed to Parkinson’s disease, researchers believe that other environmental factors must trigger the response in the brain to develop the disease.
Although researchers are not able to definitively pinpoint a clause for Parkinson’s disease, and therefore cannot begin to identify ways to prevent or cure the disease, they do will understand the factors behind the symptoms and can therefore develop effective treatment protocols that help individuals with Parkinson’s disease to function better in their environment.
Unfortunately, the body becomes unable to use the external dopamine that is supplied via pill form for extended periods of time. Research is currently underway to develop more effective treatment protocols.
MayoClinic: Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: Causes