Parkinson’s disease is increasingly common in the Western world as more people are living to an older age. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 70, but younger people are not immune: in fact one in 20 people with Parkinson’s is under the age of 40 when diagnosed.
The symptoms vary greatly between individuals and may appear very gradually. Shaking or tremors are a common sign, usually beginning in one hand or arm only to diminish when the affected limb is used.
Stiffness or rigidity of the muscles is another common symptom. It means that people with Parkinson’s may have trouble getting up from chairs, or in doing up buttons or generally getting around. This can be compounded by the third major symptom: slowness of movement (bradykinesia). This makes it difficult to “get going”, so that walking is an effort. The patient may also have difficulty starting again once they have halted a movement.
People with Parkinson’s may have altered posture, difficulties in balance, speech and writing, as well as an absence of facial expression. Swallowing may also become a problem.
Parkinson's usually develops over the course of many years as cells are lost from the part of the brain which controls movement (primary motor cortex). These cells normally produce a neurotransmitter or 'chemical messenger' known as dopamine, which works with another chemical messenger called acetylcholine to enable us to perform smooth, controlled movements. Once 80 percent of the dopamine – producing cells in our brains has been destroyed, the symptoms of Parkinson’s become noticeable.
Conventional treatment involves pharmaceutical drugs as part of a package of treatments which also includes exercise, diet, physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy. Drug treatments aim to restore the balance between dopamine and acetylcholine. This is done by taking medication either to increase our levels of dopamine, or by blocking the action of acetylcholine, or both.
For most people who are diagnosed as having Parkinson’s, drugs can initially be very effective. However, they are not without side effects. Any neurological condition such as numbness, tingling, lack of co-ordination, visual problems, etc, should be examined immediately by a physician, who may choose to refer you to a neurological specialist. Advances are being made rapidly in both drug and surgical treatment for Parkinson’s, and keeping in touch with your specialist to manage drug regime is important.
The combination of acupuncture, homepathy and Marma massage along with biomedicine can be very effective in relieving the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Reflexology can also play a helpful role in promoting blood circulation.