In this first blog in a series of informative blogs about Parkinson’s disease, Movement Disorder Neurologist, Dr Paul Silberstein, explains ‘What is Parkinson’s disease?’
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a slowly progressive Neurologic condition. It was first described by the British Neurologist James Parkinson in 1817 in his monograph “The Shaking Palsy”, where he described the physical symptoms experienced by patients with the condition. These include stiffness and slowness of movement, tremor and gait or walking impairment. These physical manifestations are referred to as the motor features of PD.
We now recognise that Parkinson’s disease can also result in changes in a variety of other domains including mood, sleep, bladder and bowel function and, after many years, cognitive performance. These clinical manifestations are considered the “non-motor” features of PD.
The average age of onset for Parkinson’s disease is 60, but patients can present with the condition at a younger age. More commonly PD is a condition of older people with a notably increasing prevalence with advancing age.
At present, there are no treatments that alter the course of Parkinson’s disease. Existing therapies focus on management of symptoms.
The good news is that there is an excellent suite of therapies that improve symptom control. Coupled with exercise and a focus on well-being, these treatments allow most patients to enjoy good quality of life for many years after the diagnosis.
In the research space there have been major advances in understanding the pathologic abnormalities which underly Parkinson’s disease. There are many trials currently underway internationally, examining therapies that may slow the progression or ultimately cure Parkinson’s disease. This provides an optimistic outlook for major future advances in Parkinson’s treatment.
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