This is Neurosurgery Outreach Month, so we're taking a closer look at the indicators and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
The early signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease are mild enough that you might miss them.
But as a progressive disease, what starts out small worsens over time. Although there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, there are multiple ways to manage symptoms to improve significantly your quality of life.
Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain that decreases the amount of dopamine in the brain, resulting in the symptoms. A diagnosis is not done through a test but from taking a detailed medical history and looking for the presence of at least one of the four most common motor symptoms of the disease.
According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, those are:
- Resting tremor: A tremor in the hand or foot on one side of the body, or less commonly in the jaw or face. It's called a "resting tremor" because it occurs when the affected body part is not performing an action or the person is otherwise relaxed.
- Bradykinesia (or "slow movement"): This can lead to shuffling feet, trouble speaking or difficulty performing everyday tasks, such as buttoning shirts, cutting food or brushing teeth.
- Rigidity: Stiffness or inflexibility that does not relax and sometimes affects range of motion.
- Postural instability: Tendency to be unstable when standing upright. A person may sway or fall backwards.
Other symptoms may be present as well. The National Parkinson Foundation lists several secondary symptoms and non-motor symptoms. They may include cramped handwriting, muffled speech, decreased ability to swallow, depression, anxiety, constipation and an increase in dandruff or oily skin.
If you have experiencing some of these symptoms, especially the motor-related ones, make an appointment with your doctor. An estimated 60,000 new cases of Parkinson's are diagnosed each year, and as many as 1.5 million Americans already have the disease. It's important to work closely with your doctor to develop an individual treatment plan that addresses your symptoms and manages any side effects of medication, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons says.
To find a doctor, you can search by specialty, such as neurology, on our web site. Aventura Hospital and Medical Center has a skilled neurology and neurosurgery staff that works together to diagnose and treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease with the latest in advanced technology, including deep brain stimulation.
Aventura also hosts a support group that meets occasionally for patients who are considering deep brain stimulation, are curious about it or have had the procedure. Family members and caregivers are welcome, too. To find out when the group meets next, call 1-888-256-7692.