Parkinson’s UK state that 1 person in every 500 has Parkinson’s – around 127,000 in the U.K. Most of these people will be 50 or over, but 1 in 20 will be under the age of 40.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition caused by a lack of ‘dopamine’ due to some nerve cells in the brain dying. People with this condition will exhibit slower movements and take a lot longer to complete tasks.
There isn’t a cure as yet for Parkinson’s and it is not known why individuals develop it. It can, however, be controlled by drugs, therapies and, as a last resort, surgery. Parkinson’s does not directly cause death, but the symptoms do gradually get worse over time.
No two people with Parkinson’s experience the same symptoms, as the rate of development varies from person to person. Indicators of the disease include tremors, slowness of movement & rigidity, but sufferers may also experience tiredness, constipation, pain and depression.
Types of Parkinson’s & Parkinsonism
Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (Parkinson’s) – The most common type of Parkinsonism, but with an unknown cause. The main symptoms are rigidity, tremors and slowness of movement. Diagnosis can be difficult as the symptoms and the rate of progression vary from person to person. Dr’s may diagnose idiopathic Parkinson’s by using Parkinson’s medication. If there is no change or response, the term atypical Parkinsonism may be used. Early onset applies to individuals under the age of 40.
Vascular Parkinsonism – A form of atypical Parkinsonism, the most likely cause being diabetes or hypertension. A CVA (stroke), carotid artery pathology (another form of stroke) or cardiac disease could also be involved. Symptoms include difficulty in speaking, swallowing and making facial expressions. There may also be memory problems, confused thoughts, incontinence and cognitive difficulties. Vascular Parkinson’s is a progressive condition.
Drug–induced Parkinsonism – Around 7% of people develop this as a result of treatment with a particular medication, typically neuroleptic drugs. These drugs are used to treat psychotic disorders and act by blocking ‘dopamine’. Dopamine is a chemical that allows messages to be sent to those parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement. If the neuroleptic drug is stopped, people can recover in days, sometimes hours. Symptoms in this type of Parkinsonism seem to be static, only changing in rare cases.
Dementia with Lewy bodies – Similar in some ways to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but with symptoms that include problems with memory and concentration, attention, language and the ability to carry out simple actions. Visual hallucinations are common and also some Parkinson’s-type symptoms like slowness of movement, tremor and stiffness. This is another progressive condition with no cure or treatment as yet.
Inherited Parkinson’s – There is no evidence to suggest that Parkinson’s is inherited except in exceptional circumstances. Some people may have genes that increase the likelihood of developing it. Inherited Parkinson’s is more likely to develop if an individual has the genes and they are combined with factors such as environmental toxins or viruses. Up to 5% of Parkinson’s may be genetic.
Juvenile Parkinson’s – This type of Parkinson’s only affects those under the age of 20.
Other types of atypical Parkinson’s – A diagnosis that isn’t actually Parkinson’s, but an unknown condition can be difficult to take in. Some symptoms develop slowly over a period of time before a doctor can make a specific identification. If the only indicator is a tremor – different to that found in Parkinson’s – a diagnosis of Benign Essential Tremor (BET) may be made. Some signs may lead to the opinion that the individual has Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) or Progressive Super nuclear Palsy (PSP).