In this first in a series of Posts on Parkinson’s disease were going to look at its etiology (cause), characteristics and symptoms. Future posts in this series will include, among other things, Parkinsonism (a “cousin” to Parkinson’s disease), treatment methods – both traditional and alternative, risk factors, preventative measures and a look at Home Care options to allow the Parkinson’s patient to Age in Place (remain at home) for as long as possible thus alleviating some of the burden on the family.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system mainly affecting the motor system. The disease is named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who published the first detailed description in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817.  Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is more common in older people, with most cases occurring after the age of 50; when it is seen in young adults, it is called young onset PD (YOPD). Symptoms develop slowly and often go unnoticed by friends, family and even the person who has them. In 2013 PD resulted in 103,000 deaths (up from 44,000 deaths in 1990).

The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain. The cause of this cell death is not totally understood. The pathology of the disease is characterized by the accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein into inclusions called Lewy bodies in neurons, and from the activity of dopamine produced in certain neurons within parts of the midbrain. Lewy bodies are the pathological hallmark of the disorder, and the distribution of the Lewy bodies throughout the Parkinsonian brain varies from one individual to another. The anatomical distribution of the Lewy bodies is often directly related to the expression and degree of the clinical symptoms of each individual.

Parkinson’s disease strikes people in many different ways, leaving them to experience a broad range of symptoms. Though symptoms may be mild or severe or occur frequently or infrequently, Parkinson’s disease appears to have five different stages. The time spent at each stage varies, and the skipping of stages, from stage one to stage three, for example, is not uncommon.

Parkinson’s disease stages include:

Stage one: During this initial phase of the disease, a patient usually experiences mild symptoms. These symptoms may inconvenience the day-to-day tasks the patient would otherwise complete with ease. Typically these symptoms will include the presence of tremors or experiencing shaking in one of the limbs.

Also during stage one, friends and family can usually detect changes in the Parkinson’s patient including poor posture, loss of balance, and abnormal facial expressions.

Stage two: In the second stage of Parkinson’s disease, the patients symptoms are bilateral, affecting both limbs and both sides of the body. The patient usually encounters problems walking or maintaining balance, and the inability to complete normal physical tasks becomes more apparent.

Stage three: Stage three symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be rather severe and include the inability to walk straight or to stand. There is a noticeable slowing of physical movements in stage three.

Stage four: This stage of the disease is accompanied by severe symptoms of Parkinson’s. Walking may still occur, but it is often limited and rigidity and bradykinesia are often visible. During this stage, most patients are unable to complete day-to-day tasks, and usually cannot live on their own. Also, for unknown reasons, the tremors or shakiness that take over during the earlier stages however, may lessen or become non-existent during this time.

Stage five: The last or final stage of Parkinson’s disease usually takes over the patients physical movements. The patient is usually unable to take care of him or herself and may not be able to stand or walk during this stage. A patient at stage five usually requires constant one-on-one nursing care.

Optimal Senior Care Solutions provides in home care for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.  Please visit our SeniorCare Plus page for more information on our service. We can help you or those seniors in your family comfortably age in place by providing exceptional in-home care giving services.  We also can provide referrals for many Service Providers, such as massage therapists, acupuncturists, music therapists, exercise therapists, physical therapists,  and more. Contact us today to learn more. We service Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo and surrounding areas of Orange County California.  Contact us today to learn more.