Parkinson’s Disease and Medical Treatment Options
For many 50 year olds, tasks such as writing or walking can be easily preformed without much attention. In fact, the term “task” seems to stress that there is a greater level of effort than is truly exerted in order for the average person to perform these actions. However, for a patient of Parkinson’s Disease who is diagnosed on average at the age of 50, these every day activities take a great deal of time, attention, and effort to be preformed (Huston). With the growth of research about this disease, a variety of treatment options ranging from medication to surgery are currently available to patients who suffer from the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder that affects over 1.5 million people in the United States (American Parkinson Disease Association, 2004). It is due the degeneration of a cluster of cells in the part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is associated with the production and distribution of dopamine, a chemical messenger to the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is responsible for controlling motor movements. However, due to this degeneration within the substantia nigra, less dopamine is produced and therefore, motor movements which depend on receiving dopamine to be preformed, are inhibited. As the disease progresses, less dopamine is produced, and movements become increasingly inhibited. Over time, inhibition of movement increases and the disease become increasingly debilitating (Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corporation).
Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by three primary symptoms: (a) rigidity (stiffness), (b) bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and (c) tremor (while at rest) (St. John Health, 2003). Other common symptoms include postural instability, drooling, shortness of breath and depression. Parkinson’s patients also suffer from difficulties associated with speech, spontaneous movements, gait, and cognitive processing. Johnson et. al (2004) studied these cognitive processing deficits to determine whether they were a result of motor impairment or a cognitive processing impairment within itself. Through two trials of testing, once with patients who were medicated for motor impairment and a second time with unmedicated patients, both compared to non-Parkinson participants of similar age groups, Johnson et. al found that both medicated and unmedicated Parkinson’s patients scored lower in the testing than the non-Parkinson’s patients. Therefore, it was determined that the cognitive processing impairment is separate from the typical motor impairment associated with the disease.
Diagnosis of Parkinson’s is based solely on clinical evaluation and observation rather than blood and laboratory testing. If a patient displays two of the three primary symptoms, he may be diagnosed with and placed on medication for Parkinson’s Disease. If the medication improves these symptoms, the diagnosis...