What causes Parkinson’s?
· Loss of dopamine– the nerve cells that die and lead to the development of Parkinson’s are responsible for producing a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine allows messages to be sent to the parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement. With loss of dopamine producing nerve cells, these parts of the brain are unable to work normally, causing the symptoms of Parkinson’s to appear.
· Genetics– it is very rare for people to pass on Parkinson’s to their children, it is estimated there may be a genetic cause for 5 in every 100 people with the condition.
· Environmental– there is some evidence that toxins may cause dopamine producing neurons to die and lead to the development of Parkinson’s. This could include viruses, bacteria, toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Types of Parkinson’s
· Idiopathic Parkinson’s– the most common type, with an unknown cause. The main symptoms are tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement.
· Vascular Parkinson’s– affects people with restricted blood supply to the brain. Sometimes people who have had a mild stroke may experience this form of parkinsonism. The common symptoms include walking difficulties, urinary incontinence and memory problems.
· Drug induced Parkinsonism– a small number of people diagnosed with parkinsonism develop symptoms following treatment with a particular medication. Neuroleptic drugs which block the action of dopamine are thought to be the biggest cause of drug induced parkinsonism. The symptoms tend to be static and most people will recover within months, hours or days once the drug is stopped.
· A Parkinson’s specialist will diagnose by looking at past medical history, neurological and medical examination
Differentiating between types of parkinsonism is not always easy:
· The first symptoms of the different forms of parkinsonism are very similar
· In many cases parkinsonism develops gradually and symptoms which allow your doctor to make a more specific diagnosis may only appear as the condition progresses
· Everyone with parkinsonism is different and has different symptoms
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