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Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Parkinson’s affects many systems in the body but it is called a movement disorder because of the impaired or involuntary movements it can cause. Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. 

Other Types of Movement Disorders

  • Dystonia
  • Chorea and Huntington's disease
  • Ataxia
  • Tremor and essential tremor
  • Myoclonus and startle
  • Tics and Tourette syndrome
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Gait disorders
  • Spasticity
  • Stiff Person Spectrum Disorder

Symptoms

Parkinson's disease and movement disorder signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. For Parikinson's, diagnosis usually occurs after age 55 although early onset at a younger age is possible. Some signs to look for can include:

  • Tremor, most commonly starting in the hands but can also occur in the tongue, jaw and legs
  • Stiff or rigid muscles (spasticity)
  • Slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • Decreased vocal volume
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Abnormally small handwriting (micrographia)
  • Shuffling gait (an impaired walk, as if the feet are stuck to the floor)
  • Decreased arm movement when walking
  • Difficulty with balance, posture or gait, which may result in falls

Causes

The underlying causes of movement disorders and Parkinson's disease vary by diagnosis and sometimes remain unknown. In people with Parkinson’s, the cells that make dopamine are impaired. As Parkinson’s progresses, more dopamine-producing brain cells die. The brain reaches a point where it stops producing dopamine which causes increasing problems with movement.

There is some evidence for the role of genetics, environmental factors, or a combination of both.

  • Genes: Specific genetic mutations have been identified that can cause Parkinson's disease. However, these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson's disease.
  • Environmental triggers: Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson's disease, but the risk is relatively small.

Factors that may potentially influence the development of movement disorders include infections, inflammation, stroke, toxins, trauma, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, genetic diseases and reactions to certain medications.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Accuracy and efficiency are a top priority when diagnosing movement disorders. It can be difficult to pinpoint a diagnosis among the many different types of movement disorders. Different disorders can have symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease but may require different treatment. A neurologist will make the diagnosis based on your symptom history, neurological examination, blood test, imaging test, and genetic tests. 

There is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease it is dependant on the persons' symptoms. Patients need constant monitoring and adjustments to ensure the long-term effectiveness of their treatments for movement disorders. Treatments can include:

  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Surgery
  • Injections

Call us today to find out more information about your treatment options, to schedule a consultation or to make an appointment.

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