Parkinson’s Disease: Overview & Risk Factors

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated seven to ten million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease. It’s a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system, and while it cannot be cured, medications may improve symptoms. There are special programs that can help improve the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s Disease Onset

Adult-Onset Parkinson’s Disease is the most common type of Parkinson’s disease. The average age of onset for Parkinson’s is approximately 60 years old. The incidence of adult onset Parkinson’s Disease rises noticeably as people advance in age into their 70’s and 80’s. The disease occurs from a loss of neurons that produce the chemical, dopamine, in the brain. It is often described as a movement disorder. In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, the face may show little or no expression, the arms may not swing when walking and speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s comes with two main types of possible symptoms. One affects the ability to move and leads to motor issues like tremors and rigid muscles. The other has non-motor symptoms.

Non-Motor Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Non-motor related symptoms include:

  • Dementia
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vision disturbances

Not everyone will get all the symptoms of Parkinson’s, and the rate and severity of progression is unpredictable.

Motor Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Motor related issues include:

  • Tremors
  • Slowed Movement – steps may become shorter when walking, difficulty standing up, dragging feet.
  • Rigid Muscles
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Loss of automatic movement
  • Changes in speech and writing – softer speech, slurred speech or fewer inflections in voice.

Parkinson’s Disease Tremor Types

Tremors are a major symptom and can include:

  • Rhythmic shaking in the hands, arms, head, legs, or torso
  • Shaky voice
  • Difficulty writing or drawing
  • Difficulty holding and controlling utensils, such as spoons.

Some tremors may be triggered by or become worse during times of stress or strong emotion, when an individual is physically exhausted, when a person is in certain posture or makes certain movements.

  • Resting tremor occurs when the muscle is relaxed, such as when the hands are resting on the lap.
  • Action tremor occurs with the voluntary movement of a muscle. Most types of tremor are considered action tremor.

Parkinson’s Disease Risk Factors

  • Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
  • Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances to develop the disease. However, risks are still small unless there are many relatives with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.
  • Exposure to toxins, herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease

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Orchard at Athens is an Assisted Senior Living Community in Athens GA focused on supporting people with all abilities. If you or your loved one has Parkinson’s disease, the staff will be trained and prepared to help you live your best life. Please contact us with questions or to learn more.