April 11 is World Parkinson Disease day and marks the birthday of Dr James Parkinson, who in 1817 wrote
An Essay on the Shaking Palsy.
The book spoke about a phenomena in which patients experienced lessened muscle power and involuntarly trembling.
French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot’s studies on rigidity and weakness led to the disease once known as shaking palsy to be renamed after Dr Parkinson some sixty years after his death.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
It involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain called neurons, says the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Some of the dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and co-ordination. As the disease progresses, the amount of dopamine in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally. While the symptoms may vary, the main signs of the disease are:
- Trembling of the hands, arms, legs and jaw
- Slowness of movement
- Stiffness of limbs
- Impaired balance and cordination
— GCT (@gctrials) April 11, 2016
In his short essay, the London-born Dr Parkinson noticed that three of his patients had similar shaking symptoms along with three individuals that he saw in the street.
He describes one man whom he met as following:
“It was a man sixty-two years of age; the greater part of whose life had been spent as an attendant at a magistrate’s office. He had suffered from the disease about eight or ten years. All the extremities were considerably agitated, the speech was very much interrupted, and the body much bowed and shaken. He walked almost entirely on the fore part of his feet, and would have fallen every step if he had not been supported by his stick.”
The doctor rightly put the cause of the malady down to damage in the part of the spine called the medulla.
Did you know?
- an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease
- the incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with the disease are diagnosed before the age of 50
- men are one-and-a-half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women
How is it treated
Medications fall into three categories. The first includes drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain. The most common drugs for Parkinson’s are dopamine precursors—substances such as levodopa that cross the blood-brain barrier and are then changed into dopamine. Other drugs mimic dopamine or prevent or slow its breakdown.
The second category of medication affects other neurotransmitters in the body in order to ease some of the symptoms of the disease. For example, anticholinergic drugs interfere with production or uptake of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. These can be effective in reducing tremors.
The third category of drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease includes medications that help control the non-motor symptoms of the disease, that is, the symptoms that don’t affect movement. For example, people with Parkinson’s Disease-related depression may be prescribed antidepressants.
Chemists have recently identified the complex chemical structure of the protein that stacks together to form fibrils in the brains of Parkinson’s Disease patients. Armed with this knowledge, researchers hope to identify specific targets for diagnosis and treatment. (Science Daily)
Famous people who suffer with Parkinson’s Disease
- Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
- Muhammed Ali
- Michael J Fox
- Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)