Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine producing cells in the brain. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and no one knows what causes these cells to die. The loss of these dopamine-producing cells can cause a variety of symptoms, such as tremor, loss of balance, and muscle stiffness. Medications treat the symptoms of the disease, but often come with harsh side effects. Additionally, these medications are only helpful for a time before the patient builds up a tolerance to the medication, which causes the medicine to lose its efficacy.
In addition to the primary motor symptoms of tremor, loss of balance, stiffness, and slowness of movement, many Parkinson’s patients also struggle with non-motor symptoms. Some of these can be far more troubling to the patient than the motor symptoms. These symptoms can include sleep difficulties, blood pressure changes, difficulty regulating body temperature, and problems with urinary frequency. A Parkinson’s patient may also experience anxiety, depression and mood changes, slower cognitive functions such as a loss of memory or difficulty multi-tasking, and behavioral changes, such as binge eating, hyper-sexuality or gambling. The patient may also have numbness, tingling, and pain. Believe me, pain is a symptom. I had read that Parkinson’s is a painless disease, but this is not true. Many of the Parkinson’s patients I have spoken with cite pain as a symptom.
There are a lot of Parkinson’s symptoms. Some patients have a lot of symptoms, some have just a few. There is no “standard” set of Parkinson’s symptoms. Many people refer to Parkinson’s disease as a “boutique” disease because each case is individual.
Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to diagnose, because there is no way to test for the disease. Doctors must rely on their powers of observation and the patients response to anti-Parkinsonian drugs. Many young onset Parkinson’s patients spend several years trying to obtain the correct diagnosis for their symptoms.
Some resources that give more information on Parkinson’s disease: