Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most commonly seen diseases in people aged 60 or older. Only up to 10% of patients are diagnosed before the age of 50, and men get affected about 50% more than women. About 6,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed each year in the United States, adding to the estimated 1.5 million Americans currently suffering from this disease.
Although Parkinson’s disease usually develops after the age of 55, some people may develop it in their 30s or 40s, such as actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed at the age of 30. Some other famous people with Parkinson’s include boxer Muhammad Ali (boxing-induced PD), singer Johnny Cash, actress Estelle Getty, actress Deborah Kerr, evangelist Billy Graham, film critic Pauline Kael, and Pope John Paul II.
It is suspected that a relation exists between Parkinson’s disease and seizures, but it is not medically supported yet. This article delves into the intricacies of Parkinson’s disease and uncovers the relationship of seizures with Parkinson’s.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that typically affects the predominantly dopamine-producing (also called dopaminergic) neurons in a specific brain region known as substantia nigra. Parkinson’s disease significantly affects movement and causes tremors shaking, along with difficulties in balance and coordination. The symptoms begin gradually and may even start from a hardly noticeable tremor in just one hand.
Although tremors are relatively common in PD, this disorder also causes the slowing of movement or stiffness of muscles. Patients may even suffer from behavioral and emotional changes as the disease progresses and may face sleeping difficulties, memory lapses, fatigue, and difficulty in talking.
Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease typically occurs when nerve cells in the basal ganglia (which is a region of the brain that controls movement) either die or become impaired. The nerve cells in the basal ganglia hold paramount significance as they produce an essential brain chemical known as dopamine.
The death of nerve cells results in a decrease in dopamine production, which causes several movement disabilities that are commonly seen in PD patients. Despite extensive research, scientists have been unable to root out the reasons that cause the dopamine-producing cells to die.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease also lose the nerve endings that are responsible for producing norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is the primary chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system and controls several body functions, including blood pressure and heart rate.
However, a loss of norepinephrine can be considered the reason behind the non-movement symptoms that line PD. These include irregular blood pressure, a sudden drop in blood pressure at the slightest movements – such as when a person stands up from a laying down or sitting position, and diminished movement of food through the digestive tract.
Brain cells of people with Parkinson’s typically contain Lewy bodies, which are unusual clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein. Extensive research is underway to better understand the normal and abnormal functioning of the alpha-synuclein protein and its relationship with genetic mutations that affect both Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Although the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unclear, some cases appear to be hereditary, whereas a few can be traced to particular genetic mutations. However, a majority of cases of PD occur randomly without any traces of family history. Many scientists now believe that Parkinson’s disease is actually caused by a combination of environmental factors – such as exposure to toxins and genetic factors.
Does Parkinson’s disease cause seizures?
Although seizures have been generally associated with PD, the studies are sparse. Despite efforts in research, scientists have failed to identify a definite relationship between seizures and Parkinson’s disease.
However, several patients report seizures generally induced by environmental factors that typically start with lightheadedness and end with gagging nausea, intense sweating, and intense vertigo. If left untreated, some patients may suffer from multiple seizure episodes followed by exaggerated flooding emotions. Such patients may have to cease all daily life functioning, and recovery may take days.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and the rate of progression differ amongst individuals. Because of the similarity of signs, many people often mistake PD symptoms with the effects of normal aging. PD can be a complicated disorder to diagnose because no definitive tests are available to detect the disease.
The early symptoms are typically subtle, difficult to identify, and occur gradually. For example, a person may feel slight tremors while getting out of a chair, notice that their handwriting has become slower or looks too cramped, feel as if they speak too softly, or face difficulty moving an arm or leg. This places a great responsibility on bystanders, as friends and family members may be the first to notice changes in a person with early Parkinson’s. One key factor of identification is a lack of animations or expressions in a person’s face.
Some common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are as follows:
Patients may generally feel a trembling sensation in the hands, jaw, head, arms, fingers, or legs. Their hand may tremble when at rest, or they may rub their thumb and forefinger back and forth, which is also known as a pill-rolling tremor. It is typical for only one side of the body to be affected in the early stages of the disease, but the tremors may become more widespread as the disease progresses. They usually disappear during sleep or movement.
Stiffness of the trunk and limbs
Rigid and stiff muscles may occur in any part of the body and can be painful. They also limit the range of motion of PD patients and may be even more painful to massage.
Diminished movement (Bradykinesia)
Parkinson’s disease may hamper movement, making everyday tasks time-consuming and arduous. Patients may become slow walkers with short steps, drag their feet while walking, or face difficulty getting out of a chair or bed. They may also develop a parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward, walk as if hurrying along, and less than average swinging of the arms. Patients may also face difficulties continuing or initiating movement.
Impaired coordination and balance
Parkinson’s disease impairs patients’ balance and coordination ability, resulting in a stooped posture. Because of impaired motor functions, they may face trouble coordinating their body motions which may even lead to falls or other dangerous situations.
Emotional and behavioral changes
Depression, paranoia, anxiety, and other emotional changes are fairly common in PD patients. Patients may even undergo a 90-degree behavior change and may be unable to manage their feelings.
Loss of or decrease in automatic movements
Patients may suffer from a decreased ability to perform conscious movements such as smiling, blinking, or even swinging their arms when talking. In severe cases, they may lose all automatic movements, resulting in partial paralysis.
Difficulties in speaking
People with PD may speak quickly, softly, hesitate before talking, or have a slurred or garbled speech. Their speech may be monotonous, lacking intonations or the usual inflections of speech.
Difficulties in writing
Since PD affects voluntary movements, patients may naturally face difficulties while writing. It may become slower, messier, or smaller.
Some other common symptoms include constipation, urinary tract infections or problems, sleep disruptions, difficulty swallowing or chewing, restless legs, diminished ability to smell, or skin-related complications.
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