About Parkinson's Disease

About Symptoms and Diagnosis

Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder typically presenting with symptoms such as slowness of movement, muscle rigidity, instability and tremor. It was named after an English doctor, James Parkinson, who first described cases of a "shaking palsy" in 1817. Four decades later Jean-Martin Charcot added rigidity to Parkinson's excellent clinical description and attached the name Parkinson's disease to the syndrome.

In India, however, medical practitioners knew of this disease some two thousand years ago, named the symptoms and treated them with a formulation similar to levodopa which is in use today.

There are estimated to be some 80,000 Australians living with Parkinson's disease. A diagnosis can occur at any age with the most common age of diagnosis being 50-60 years of age.

What triggers the disease is still unknown, but we understand that the neurones in a particular area of the brain known as the substantia nigra are damaged or lost. This results in a reduction in dopamine, a powerful brain chemical that assists in coordinating movement.

While there is a comprehensive "list" of Parkinson's symptoms, sufferers will exhibit some of them and not others with a wide variation in their combination. Details of symptoms can be found on the Parkinson's NSW Inc website. There are no tests such as blood tests which can confirm Parkinson's. Correct diagnosis is complicated because there are a number of medical conditions which have some common symptoms with Parkinson's.

It is therefore essential that  anybody suffering any of the apparently Parkinsonian symptoms be examined by a specialist Neurologist. Many GP's are sufficiently experienced to identify possible diagnosis of Parkinson's but the final diagnosis and treatment should be by specialist Neurologist on referral from the GP.

Being Diagnosed with Parkinson's can range from relief to know what condition you have, through to anger, depression, denial and many places in between. An incorrect diagnosis and subsequent inappropriate treatment will result in worsening of the real condition and lose valuable quality of life.

About Treatment Options

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but there are effective treatment and therapy options that can help manage most symptoms, so people with Parkinson's disease can continue to enjoy many years of independent and productive lives.

Drugs taken orally are the initial treatment for Parkinson's. The individual person's age, combination of symptoms and their severity are the basis for the Neurologist's prescription of type and quantity of symptom control drugs. Initial treatment is monitored and is then tailored to the individual's condition.

Continued monitoring of the sufferer's condition is necessary because of potential drug side effects and because of the regressive nature of Parkinson's.

As the effects of Parkinson's become more pronounced, other treatments may be recommended by the Neurologist based on the sufferer's condition and assessment of benefit from the particular treatment. These may include systems such as those which supply drugs at a more constant rate to the body by injection pump and Deep Brain Stimulation through electrodes implanted in the brain. The electrodes are energized by an external controller which causes the body to manufacture its own Dopamine.

There is still much to learn about what causes Parkinson's disease. Research to find the causes of Parkinson's and to find effective cures is ongoing. There is every hope that outcomes for people with Parkinson's disease will continue to improve and that ultimately there will be a cure. In the meantime, community organizations like our Support Group and Parkinson's NSW Inc. will continue to offer information, education, counseling, advocacy and support in addition to raising funds for provision of services and research.

Whichever treatment option is used it is also essential that diet, excercise, social contact and mental stimulation are included in the overall management of Parkinson's. Relevant practioners such as dieticians, physical trainers, psychologists, occupational therapists and speech therapists are part of the resources needed to manage sufferers condition in addition to carers, friends and a local support group. 

About Information Sources

There is an great amount to learn about Parkinson's particularly how you can best employ your resources to make living for you and your carers and families the best possible

There are many publications about Parkinson's which cover aspects of Parkinsons with varying degrees of completeness. Port Macquarie Parkinson's Support Group has a range of books, DVD's and Videos available for loan to members.

Port Macquarie Hastings Council currently has a limited range of books. This will be expanded in the near future courtesy of a donation by local clubs.

If you buy or borrow, look for recent editions to ensure information is current

For more information about Parkinson's Disease, have a look at the excellent information provided on Parkinson's NSW Inc. website at www.parkinsonsnsw.org.au including their book and DVD catalogues.

WARNING. While there are many apparent resources on the web, there are some making claims which cannot be substantiated. If you see something that looks attractive and makes great promises in excess of your existing treatment (particularly those that are expensive) refer to Parkinson's NSW Inc and your neurologist for advice.