Parkinson’s disease: is defined as “a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremors, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movements chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people”.
The term progressive suggests that this disease deteriorates further with time, and may result in organs failure, serious debility or even death. Some “progressive” diseases can be curbed or reversed by certain treatments.
Parkinson’s disease should not be confused with another, similar disease called Parkinsonism which is a set of diseases, with numerous underlying causes, with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease but do not meet the clinical yardsticks required to classify them as Parkinson’s disease. They do look similar but there is a marked difference in that they do not respond to the Dopamine treatment. However, Parkinson’s disease is the most common cause of parkinsonism.
Its forms and extensions are many. One extreme can be in form of impulse control disorders like Pathological gambling, compulsive eating, compulsive buying and hyper-sexuality are described as a form of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is something which we have all seen; most of us are familiar with its symptoms too. We also know that it is a disease caused by the degeneration of neurons of the brain, which carry a substance called dopamine, due to which the affected person loses control over the control of muscles leading to jerky, involuntary movements in people affected by this disease.
No one knows the cause of death of these cells in Parkinson’s disease, but it is generally seen in elderly people and associated with some genetic defects, head injury, rural environment and exposure to toxins like pesticides. It has been seen that tobacco smokers have lesser risk of developing this disease.
There is still no agreement in scientific circles to conclusively state as to what the reasons for the advent of Parkinson’s disease are. All the beliefs are based on suppositions and probabilities but there is no conclusive proof or theory.
The current research
This disease is caused by the destruction of neurons in substantia nigra, a part of the brain which is responsible to produce Dopamine.
Since Dopamine controls movement by sending signals to other parts of the brain, this function becomes reduced, erratic or impaired due to reduction or loss of Dopamine which is a neurotransmitter. The exact reason why the destruction occurs is still not known.
It is also believed that the pathophysology of Parkinson’s disease might be dependent on the production of neuronal Nitric Oxide and its biosynthesis.
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It is not yet known as to what can actually prevent the incidence of Parkinson’s disease but, it is believed that the possibility of being afflicted may be reduced in people with healthy habits of daily living, daily exercise, use of caffeine and intake of anti-oxidants.