Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disease of the neurons, which affects about 1 million people in the US. The cause of this disease is still unknown, although some associate it with heredity or exposure to environmental toxins. The disease affects the motor ability of the person at various levels, and strips him of his independence in the later stages of the disease. The disease originates in the part of brain, but has effects on the entire body of the person. Parkinson's disease is divided into 5 stages depending upon the severity of symptoms and advancement of disease.
Parkinson's disease usually affects people of age 60 and above. In about 5% of Parkinson's cases, the disease hits people at 40 years of age. It is extremely rare to find Parkinson's patients younger than 40 years of age. This disease results from loss of neurons in the part of brain called substantia nigra. This leads to depletion of the chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine. Symptoms do not surface until there is 80% depletion of this chemical neurotransmitter.
Dopamine neurons contain mitochondria which are responsible for converting food into energy with the help of oxygen. As a result, the brain of Parkinson's patients is often deprived of energy, which affects various vital functions. Motor disability is the most important implication of Parkinson's disease. Impaired walking, poor posture, odd facial expressions, and tremors are some other symptoms of this disease. Parkinson's can be treated, but the treatment cannot entirely reverse the effects of the disease. Nonetheless, this disease does not affect the lifespan of the person. Prognosis is greatly dependent upon the advancement of the disease, which is not uniform for all patients.
Parkinson's Disease Stages
There are five identified stages of Parkinson's disease. It may take 20 years in some patients for the disease to advance to the later stages, while in some people the disease progresses very quickly. It is also not uncommon for the disease to skip a stage and make a transition to the next one, thereby reducing the timeline.
Stage I is characterized by early Parkinson's disease symptoms. There is no major motor impairment and the person only experiences minor tremors in the hands or in other body parts. Although he can perform all his daily tasks on his own, he may not be able to carry them with ease. Friends and family may be able to notice some unusual changes in the posture or facial expressions of the person.
As the disease progresses to stage II, person may experience bilateral symptoms, meaning symptoms affecting both the limbs of the body. Besides, it is also common to lose balance and ability to walk on their own. Daily tasks become more of a challenge at this stage.
Stage III Parkinson's is said to be severe, as the person loses his independence to a certain extent. Although, he can still walk around, it is often rigid and awkward. There is a general retardation of physical movements of the body.
Surprisingly, the tremors or shaking common during the early stages of Parkinson's disease vanish at this time. However, the person finds it difficult to live on his own at this stage. At stage IV, walking is severely impaired.
At stage V, the person becomes completely dependent on other people for his daily tasks. The condition of the patient is such that he needs one-on-one nursing and care. Without a caregiver, the person might find it simply impossible to sustain. At this stage, the person may sleep for most of his time. Weird behavior is also possible in some cases.
Certain medications can help in keeping the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease in check or prolong the advancement of disease. Final stages may prove to be quite a challenge to cope for the patient as well as his family. Family members might find it hard to see their beloved in a bedridden state for years without any hope of revival.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.