The terms Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's Syndrome, Parkinsonism and Parkinsons are often used interchangeably for a chronic brain disorder with features of tremor, slow movements and stiffness of muscles. Parkinsons is more common over the age of 55, but it can occur in younger people as well. The frequency of Parkinsons increases in older people. Men and women are equally affected. Today, in Canada, there are approximately 100,000 people suffering with Parkinsons and more than half of them are diagnosed before retirement age.

The Cause

An area of the brain called substantis nigra contains cells that produce a chemical called dopamine. The death of these cells leads to a deficiency of dopamine, which causes interference in the transmission of messages between nerve cells, making movement difficult.

The Symptoms

  • Tremor of the limbs when at rest
  • Muscular rigidity
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Reduced volume and clarity of speech
  • Difficulty with fine movements (handwriting)

How is Parkinsons Diagnosed?

There are no x-rays or tests to confirm the diagnosis. Neurologists diagnose Parkinsons by medical history and careful clinical examination. Often, tests are done to rule out other conditions which may resemble Parkinsons.

Treatment for Parkinsons Disease

Treatment is needed to correct the chemical imbalance. Drugs alleviate the symptoms but do not halt the progression. As the symptoms progress, more medication is needed. While treatment does enable people to function better, it is not perfect and can cause side effects. Ongoing active research is focused on finding more effective treatment.

Rehabilitation for Parkinsons Patients

Occupational Therapy is aimed at promoting independence and improving all aspects of functional ability by addressing the following areas:

  • Adaptive equipment
  • Safety promotion
  • Energy conservation
  • Stress management
  • Improving mobility

Physical Therapy is aimed at helping in the following areas:

  • Assessing mobility, balance and posture, and prescribing a specific exercise program
  • Analyzing walking problems and helping correct or minimize difficulties

Speech Language Pathology is aimed at evaluating speech problems and designing a therapy program to meet individual needs.

Source:Parkinson Foundation of Canada.