Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic progressive neurological disease that affects nerve cells (neurons) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra.
The majority of complications in Parkinson’s patients are related to the failure of dopamine neurons to do their job properly. Dopamine sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. It lets your muscles move smoothly and do what you want them to do. Once the nerve cells break down you no longer have enough dopamine, and you have trouble moving and completing tasks.
People suffering from Parkinson’s Disease often suffer from the following complications:
Primary Motor Symptoms
Bradykinesia (slow movement) A general reduction of spontaneous movement, which can give the appearance of abnormal stillness and a decrease in facial expressivity. Causes difficulty with repetitive movements and performing everyday functions, such as buttoning a shirt, cutting food or brushing teeth, walking with short, shuffling steps, affect on ones speech; quieter and less distinct, drooling and excess saliva result from reduced swallowing movements.
Postural Instability (a tendency to be unstable when standing upright) is caused by uncontrollable reflexes needed for maintaining an upright posture that can cause particular difficulty when pivoting or making turns or quick movements. It can also cause retropulsion (a dangerous tendency to sway backwards when rising from a chair, standing or turning).
Resting Tremor occurs when the muscle is relaxed, such as when the hands are resting on the lap. With this disorder, a person’s hands, arms, or legs may shake even when they are at rest. Often, the tremor only affects the hand or fingers. This type of tremor is often seen in people with Parkinson’s disease and is called a “pillrolling” tremor because the circular finger and hand movements resemble rolling of small objects or pills in the hand.
Rigidity causes stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck and trunk. The muscle tone of an affected limb is always stiff and does not relax, sometimes contributing to a decreased range of motion. Rigidity can be uncomfortable or even painful and inhibits the swinging of arms when walking.
Slight tremor (shaking or oscillating movement) in the hand or foot on one side of the body, or in the jaw or face and usually appears when a person’s muscles are relaxed, or at rest (not performing an action)
Secondary Motor Symptoms
Akinesia – Poverty of spontaneous movement.
Cramping – Neural sensations caused by muscle contraction or overshortening.
Drooling – Sialorrhea (the flow of saliva outside the mouth).
Dysphagia - Difficulty swallowing
Dystonia – A neurological movement disorder, in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.
Freezing of gait hesitation before stepping forward is a manifestations of akinesia (poverty of spontaneous movement). The feeling as if their feet are glued to the floor can increase a person’s risk of falling forward.
Hypokinesia – Movements that are slow as well as smaller than desired.
Impaired fine motor dexterity and motor coordination - Encompass the abilities required to control the smaller muscles of the body for writing, playing an instrument, artistic expression, and craft work.
Impaired gross motor coordination - Abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities.
Mask-like Expression – Face appearing less expressive than usual is a manifestations of akinesia (poverty of spontaneous movement [e.g. in facial expression]).
Micrographia (shrinkage in handwriting). This occurs as a result of bradykinesia (slow movement) and hypokinesia (which refer to the fact that, in addition to being slow, the movements are also smaller than desired).
Sexual dysfunction – Difficulty experienced during sexual activity, including physical pleasure, desire, preference, arousal or orgasm.
Speech problems – Such as softness of voice or slurred speech caused by lack of muscle control.
Stooped posture – A tendency to lean forward.
Unwanted Acceleration is the experience of movements that are too quick causing tachyphemia (excessively fast speech) and festination (an uncontrollable acceleration in gait).
Many researchers believe that nonmotor symptoms may precede motor symptoms — and a Parkinson’s diagnosis — by years. The most recognizable early symptoms include:
Anosmia – loss of sense of smell
Dyschezia – constipation
Mood Disorders – Depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder and cyclothymic disorder.
Orthostatic Hypotension – Sudden fall in blood pressure upon standing
REM Behavior Disorder – parasomnia, a sleep disorder
Other Nonmotor Symptoms
Fear and anxiety