Parkinson’s disease is classified as a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement. The symptoms of the disease progressively worsen as dopamine levels drop in the brain. Dopamine is produced in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. When dopamine levels drop to 60 percent, symptoms of the disease will begin to appear.
This movement disorder impacts the nervous system. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease often develop gradually, beginning with tremors in one hand and stiffness in the body. Some people may develop dementia as the disease progresses. This disease can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, making them dependent on others to carry out the simplest daily activities.
Early signs of Parkinson’s disease can include:
- A change in balance and coordination that may cause a person to fall or frequently drop things
- Loss of sense of smell
- Changes in gait
- Increased slowness of movement
- Involuntary movements
- Problems sleeping
- Restless legs
- Fixed facial expressions
- Changes in handwriting
- Changes in mood, such as depression
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Unexplained fatigue
- Muscle rigidity
- Changes in movement may begin on one side of the body, affecting both sides gradually
- Skin problems
- Weight loss
- Trouble carrying out simple tasks
The Different Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
This progressive disease is caused by the breaking down or degeneration of cells in the nervous system. The nature of the disease is progressive, which means the symptoms will worsen over time.
There are five stages of Parkinson’s disease:
In stage one Parkinson’s a person may experience milder symptoms that may or may not interfere with daily activities. Movement symptoms such as tremors often occur on one side of the body. A person may also experience changes in facial expressions, walking, and posture.
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In the second stage of the disease, a person’s symptoms worsen and can include movement symptoms on both sides of the body, such as slow movement, impaired balance, muscle stiffness, and tremors. Carrying out normal daily tasks may take longer and can become more difficult.
Stage three Parkinson’s is also referred to as mid-stage. The primary symptoms often include slowness of movements, increased muscle stiffness, urinary urgency and a loss of balance. These symptoms can impact normal daily activities such as eating, showering, and dressing. At this stage, due to poor balance, falls are also more common.
In stage four, the symptoms are limiting and severe. A person may need assistance with standing and may need to use a medical device such as a cane or walker. A person with stage four Parkinson’s disease may need help carrying out daily activities, has a high risk of falls, and may be unable to live alone. They may also experience spontaneous movements, uncontrollable movements and increased muscle rigidity.
Physical activity is almost impossible at this advanced disease stage. Rigidity and stiffness in the body, especially the legs, can make it impossible for a person to walk or stand up. A person will often experience spontaneous movement, have trouble making purposeful movement, and will need a wheelchair at this time, and may be bedridden. Around-the-clock care for daily activities is often required. A person may also experience a drop in cognitive function and may have delusions and hallucinations at this time.
Living with Parkinson’s Disease
Depending on the stage of Parkinson’s, life can be very challenging for a person with this disease. Aside from issues with movement, the disease may cause a wide variety of symptoms that can impact every aspect of a person’s life from depression and low blood pressure to dementia and fatigue.
60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. In the U.S., almost one million people are living with this disease. It often develops around the age of 60. However, a small percent of people are diagnosed before the age of 50. Because the disease progresses slowly, a person may not experience any noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed over a period of several years.
As the disease damages or kills nerve cells or neurons, a person will begin to experience many of the common, debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, based on a person’s medical history and the severity of their symptoms, a physician can establish a treatment plan that can include:
Sinemet is a combination of a drug called levodopa and another drug called carbidopa. Carbidopa has been proven to increase the effectiveness of levodopa. This drug has fewer side effects compared to other drugs used to treat Parkinson’s but it can cause involuntary movement.
Safinamide is another medication that can be prescribed for PD sufferers who also take levodopa and carbidopa, with minimal medication side effects.
Studies have found that this medication can stave off PD symptoms for a longer period of time, or significantly reduce them.
There are several types of surgeries that can be performed to improve the quality of life. Most procedures are designed to help minimize tremors or muscle rigidity.
Surgery options can include:
- Lesion surgery
- Deep brain stimulation
- Neural grafting
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
While scientists have yet to identify the cause of Parkinson’s disease, studies have identified some variations that occur that can result in its development, such as:
A Drop in Dopamine Levels
Symptoms associated with this neurodegenerative disorder result from falling or low levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine levels will drop when the cells responsible for dopamine production die off in the brain.
Dopamine is in charge of sending messages to the area of the brain responsible for controlling the body’s coordination and movement. When there are lower than average levels of dopamine in the brain it can make it more difficult for a person to control their movements. As dopamine levels continue to drop, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that contributes to automatic body functions, such as blood circulation. People with Parkinson’s disease may also have damage to nerve endings that produce norepinephrine.
These lower levels of norepinephrine can increase non-motor symptoms and motor symptoms including:
- Trouble focusing
This may be why people with this disease are often diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension, which involves a drop in blood pressure when a person stands up. This can cause a person to suddenly feel weak and/or lightheaded, resulting in a loss of balance.
Studies have shown people with Parkinson’s disease may have alpha-synuclein, also known as Lewy bodies, a type of protein, in their brain. The accumulation of these proteins can result in a loss of nerve cells. The loss of these cells can cause changes in mood, behavior, and thinking, as well as movement. It can also result in dementia.
While Lewy body dementia isn’t the same as Parkinson’s, it presents similar symptoms.
Genetic Factors – Family History of PD
Researchers have identified many changes in a variety of genes that are linked to Parkinson’s, but experts don’t consider Parkinson’s a hereditary condition. Studies found that genetic factors only caused approximately 10% of cases among people with Parkinson’s.
Many environmental factors can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease, including:
Traumatic Brain Injury
A head injury can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease later in life.
One of the most common environmental factors that can result in a PD diagnosis is exposure to toxic chemicals. Exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals, such as paraquat, a powerful herbicide, can increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. In fact, recent California paraquat lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of this harmful herbicide. People such as agricultural workers and farmers who have been exposed to paraquat have developed Parkinson’s disease later in life.
If you have been exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson’s disease, you must meet with an attorney as soon as possible. A paraquat lawyer can review your case to determine if you have a valid claim against the manufacturers of paraquat.
If you have a case, you can hold the manufacturer responsible for your medical expenses, ongoing medical treatment needs, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other related costs.
Contact A Paraquat Lawyer Today at Nadrich & Cohen
If you have been exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson’s disease, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Don’t put off contacting a paraquat lawyer. Call Nadrich & Cohen Accident Injury Lawyers today at 800-718-4658 or text or email to learn how we can help you hold the manufacturers of paraquat responsible for your Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. We offer free, no-obligation consultations. We can help you explore your legal options so you can make the best decision moving forward. At Nadrich & Cohen, our attorneys will work tirelessly to build a strong case against the manufacturers of paraquat and hold them responsible for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.