What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease primarily disrupts the control of movement by the brain. It affects 1 in 500 people. Most people who get Parkinson’s are aged 50 or over. The main symptoms are a tremor, stiff muscles and slow movements. These are all caused by a gradual loss of neurons in an area of the brain controlling movement, not damage to the muscles themselves.
Do we understand Parkinson’s disease?
The neurons that die in Parkinson’s disease normally make the neurotransmitter dopamine and control movement. We all lose these cells as we get older; in fact you can lose over 60% of them before any changes are noticeable, but in people with Parkinson’s disease the process seems to speed up. No– one knows what triggers this loss. Researchers are concentrating on finding ways of replacing the lost cells and lost dopamine.
Can we treat Parkinson’s disease?
Some drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease aim to boost the activity of the surviving dopamine-releasing neurons in the brain. Others are designed to stop the brain breaking down dopamine or enhance dopamine action. Surgical techniques can be used to treat people who have had Parkinson’s for some time and whose symptoms are not controlled effectively by medication. Occupational therapy can also help people with movement and speech.