Parkinson’s disease, or PD, is a rare neurological disease occurring in approximately 1 percent of people over age 50 and in far fewer individuals under age 50. The condition is caused by a deterioration of nerve cells that are related to motor skills and bodily movements.
Symptoms and Stages
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person and according to the stage of the disease. Also, some patients experience symptoms chronically, while others experience them sporadically. The symptoms most associated with Parkinson’s disease include tremors, balance impairment, slow movements, and poor posture. In general, PD is recognized to occur in five stages – each of which is defined by its symptoms.
Stage I: During this stage, symptoms are typically subtle and may include mild tremors in the hands or a limb.
Stage II: During this stage, symptoms may progress to include hands or limbs on each side of the body. Tremors also become more obvious than they were in stage I.
Stage III: During this stage, symptoms become much more severe and even debilitating. Affected individuals may begin to require assistance standing or walking, and they may also begin to experience slower movements.
Stage IV: During this stage, patients are typically no longer capable of performing any day-to-day tasks on their own. Movements are very slow, but tremors may begin to diminish.
Stage V: During this stage, PD patients are no longer able to walk or stand, nor are they able to care for themselves. A caregiver must be present at all times to provide assistance with hygiene, meals, and other routine care.
Although Parkinson’s Disease is not a life-threatening disease, it does have the ability to significantly detract from a person’s quality of life. Medications are currently available to manage the condition, and new research is constantly spurring the development of new treatments that show promise for PD patients.
A neurologist will make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease after a physical examination of symptoms, a review of medical history and a complete neurological examination. Lab tests are not yet available to identify PD, but doctors may use them – along with brain imaging scans – to eliminate the possibility of other diseases.
If a diagnosis for PD is made, patients may be prescribed a series of medications that are designed to help manage symptoms, or they may elect to undergo deep brain stimulation, which uses electrodes implanted into the brain to help lessen the severity of tremors and movement inhibitions. Though there is still no cure for Parkinson’s disease, researchers are confident they will eventually find a way to either prevent or reverse the disease altogether.