April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Many have heard the term “Parkinson’s disease” but are not too familiar with what it is, what causes it, and what the symptoms are. Dr. David Song and Dr. Esmaeil Sebti share common symptoms and insight into Parkinson’s disease and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
What is Parkinson’s disease? Who is at risk and affected by it?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a Neurogenerative disease causing progressive loss/death of cells/neurons in the entire nervous system most notably those that control movement, but also for example smell, bowel movements, sleep, cognition/memory, and blood pressure. There are currently at least 1 million people affected by Parkinson’s disease in the United States. This disease is mostly seen after the age of 50 years and about 1% of people above the age of 50 years have this disease. Men have a slightly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than women (1.5:1), shares Dr. Sebti.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? What are the causes?
There are many factors that can cause Parkinson’s disease, PD, but a definite cause or causes of PD are still unknown. Only <10% of PD patients have a clear genetic cause. For over 90% of PD patients, the cause or causes are unknown, but environmental factors are known to increase risk, for example, exposure to pesticides. Dr. Song further shares, the number one risk factor for PD is “AGE”. The older you are, the higher the risk. Only <10% of PD patients have a clear genetic cause. Genetics plays a complex role in the majority (>90%) of PD patients. Having one first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with PD doubles the “lifetime risk” of PD.
What’s the difference between tremors and Parkinson’s disease?
Dr. Song explains that tremors are rhythmic oscillatory movements that can occur “with ACTION” or “AT REST” and be a “symptom” or “sign” of a condition. Tremor is NOT a disorder or disease in it itself. Parkinson’s disease is a “disease” or “syndrome” defined by clinical criteria when strictly followed are highly accurate, that includes including tremors only at rest as one of the criteria for diagnosis but is NOT necessary nor sufficient for a diagnosis.
There are many different types of tremors. The most common form is an essential tremor that is more prevalent than Parkinson’s. As was noted above tremor at rest is only one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and by itself is not indicative of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, about 20% of patients with Parkinson’s disease do not have the tremor, Dr. Sebti adds.
What is the treatment for Parkinson’s Disease?
There is NO cure for PD. There are ONLY symptomatic treatments to treat the symptoms of PD. Nearly all symptomatic treatments for PD are for Motor or Movement symptoms. There are very few to no treatments for NONmotor symptoms. There have been multiple discoveries in controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s but by far the most effective one has been L-dopa. L-dopa is able to enter the brain and the brain metabolizes it into dopamine. There are other medications. There are also surgical interventions that are in the right population and are very effective. In order to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and choose the best therapy, the patient should be seen by a neurologist and preferably a movement disorder specialist.
Would you like to speak to a physician more about Parkinson’s disease? To speak to a physician and schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with a UCR Health Physician here or call us at 1-844-827-8000.
About UCR Health
UCR Health is comprised of a team of physicians, specialists, and healthcare professionals dedicated to improving people’s health. With five medical offices located throughout Inland Empire and Coachella Valley, UCR Health is growing to meet the healthcare needs of the region, bringing innovative, culturally sensitive medical care to the community. Established alongside the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, UCR Health’s patient-centered primary care and specialty services deliver university-based healthcare excellence and innovation to all communities.