What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which controls movement. These nerve cells die or become impaired, losing the ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine. Studies have shown that symptoms of Parkinson’s develop in patients with an 80 percent or greater loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra.
Normally, dopamine operates in a delicate balance with other neurotransmitters to help coordinate the millions of nerve and muscle cells involved in the movement. Without enough dopamine, this balance is disrupted, resulting in tremor (trembling in the hands, arms, legs, and jaw); rigidity (stiffness of the limbs); slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination – the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
No one knows exactly why a person gets Parkinson’s. It’s probably due to a mix of things, including genes and exposure to certain toxins. There’s usually no way to predict who will get it or why. It’s rare for Parkinson’s to run in families. If it does, it is usually of the early onset variety. Most of the time, it seems to happen randomly.
Also, some theories involving oxidative damage, environmental toxins, genetic factors, and accelerated aging have been discussed as potential causes for the disease. In 2005, researchers discovered a single mutation in a Parkinson’s disease gene (first identified in 1997), which is believed responsible for five percent of inherited cases.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s are related to movement:
- Tremors or shaking of hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Stiffness of arms, legs, and trunk
- Slowed movement
- The trouble with balance and coordination
People with Parkinson’s may also have:
- Depression or other emotional changes
- Trouble chewing, swallowing or speaking
- Trouble sleeping
Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Medical science has revealed the potential of stem cell therapy. In this disorder, certain neurons responsible for producing dopamine in your brain are broken down. Today, scientists have revealed how stem cells can be used in the treatment of this disease. The research revealed that stem cells have the potential to enhance function of damaged neurons. This can be done very safely and effectively and offers more long term results than simply taking medications.