Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition. This is a disorder that affects the control of body movements and alters co-ordination. It is not contagious and not fatal. Symptoms usually become evident on one side of the body initially and will affect both sides as Parkinson’s progresses. The three hallmark symptoms of this disease are tremors, rigidity of muscles and bradykinesia or slowness of movement.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the middle area of the brain. This causes a deficiency in the availability of dopamine, a chemical messenger necessary for smooth, controlled movements. The symptoms of Parkinson’s appear when about 70 per cent of the dopamine producing cells cease to function normally. Symptoms develop slowly and gradually progress over years, but are greatly helped by drug treatment.
Causes of Parkinson’s Disease
What causes Parkinson’s disease is not yet known. A significant amount of clinical research has been conducted on this subject. According to some scientists, a combination of several factors is involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease. These factors are listed below:
- Genetic Predisposition
Many researchers have found a strong genetic predisposition in some cases of Parkinson’s disease where the disease tends to run in the family. Often the affected individual has a close family member such as a twin, sibling or a parent suffering from the disease.
- Environmental toxins
Environmental toxins such as exposure to strong chemicals or radiations may play a role in the development of this disorder according to some studies. But what is the exact causation of this neurological disorder is still yet to be determined.
- Head trauma
Another factor that may trigger the development of Parkinson’s disease is physical injuries such as trauma to the head.
Mechanism that leads to the development of Parkinson’s disease
Deep inside the brain are specialized areas responsible for coordinating body movements, including the basal ganglia, the substantia nigra and the cerebellum. They connect with each other and other areas of the brain via nerve pathways using a neurotransmitter (messenger chemical) called dopamine, which is manufactured in the substantia nigra. These pathways help to make the body’s muscular movements smooth and regular.
But in Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra becomes severely depleted of dopamine and the pathways become disrupted. As a result of this the affected individual develops symptoms such as rigidity or stiffness of muscles and tremors or trembling of hands and legs.