When your loved one is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, knowing the next steps can be a minefield. There is a wealth of information available online and understanding the different treatment options is often a challenge. Avante Care & Support provides assistance for both families and individuals living with progressive conditions, helping you to make informed decisions going forward.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
With 145,000 people in the UK currently living with Parkinson’s, it is one of the fastest-growing progressive neurological conditions globally. It is a condition that impacts the nervous system, caused by the loss of nerve cells in a specific area of the brain. This causes a reduction in the production of dopamine – a chemical commonly associated with positive moods but also linked to everything from heart rate to blood pressure.
It is not known exactly why some people develop Parkinson’s while others do not. Research has indicated that it could be down to a combination of age, genetics and environmental factors that increase risk. Hereditary Parkinson’s is very rare with most reported cases being ‘idiopathic’, meaning that there is no known cause for development. In most situations, the signs of the condition begin to appear once the brain is unable to produce the right quantities of dopamine to control body movement.
There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s, with the three most common being:
- A tremor (involuntary shaking)
- Slowness of movement
- Rigidity (stiff and inflexible muscles)
How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?
There is no singular test that conclusively shows the presence of Parkinson’s disease. If you have concerns about a loved one, you should make a GP appointment to discuss the current challenges they are experiencing. As a progressive condition, most signs will probably present mildly at first, making it challenging to get a solid diagnosis. If Parkinson’s is suspected, your GP will refer the individual to a neurologist or a geriatrician who will continue with the necessary assessments.
How is Parkinson’s treated?
While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, there are several treatment options available to help relieve your loved one’s symptoms and improve their quality of life. These include:
- Physiotherapy to relieve muscle stiffness and pain through exercise.
- Occupational therapy to identify areas of difficulty and provide practical solutions, such as home care services.
- Speech and language therapy to improve difficulties, including dysphagia.
- Dietary support including an increase in fibre and salt while supporting healthy nutrition at all times.
- Medication to minimise tremors, including levodopa, dopamine agonists and MAO-B inhibitors.
- Non-oral therapies, normally administered when the condition becomes challenging to control with tablets alone. These include apomorphine and co-careldopa.
- Deep brain stimulation surgery (only suitable for certain individuals).
The right treatments will not slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. However, the right combination will help to improve the quality of life for your loved one and reduce their discomfort too.