Introduction to Parkinson's Science/Q Page 1
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If you or someone close to you is diagnosed with Parkinson's it is likely to be a shock.
It is something you have to come to terms with and to help you with this you are very likely to want some questions answered.
Your physician or neurologist is likely to provide the answers to to certain basic questions. But then more will arise in your mind that were not answered at the initial consultation.
What do you want to know?Edit
There are many organisations which have put basic information about Parkinson's on their web sites. Here are some:
- Parkinson's UK
- Michael J Fox Foundation
- Parkinson's Movement
- Northwest Parkinson's Foundation
- European Parkinson's Disease Association
There is no need to replicate all that information here, but here is a summary of the answers to some of the immediate questions people often have.
Subsequent pages will deal with the answers to more probing questions.
On each page hyperlinks in the topic boxes on the right will give further detailed information on terms and concepts as they arise.
What has caused me to have Parkinson's?Edit
In most cases the cause of a person's Parkinson's is unknown. That is why it is called idiopathic or sporadic. For a minority there is a genetic link ('familial' Parkinson's) but even here there may not be evidence that it 'runs in the family'.
There are a number of external factors that have been linked to Parkinson's and these are given in the Section 1 topic of Parkinson's Causes. Usually there is no way of knowing whether any one of these in particular has caused an individual to contract the disease. It is thought that idiopathic Parkinson's disease is in most cases likely to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Does Parkinson's reduce life expectancy?Edit
Parkinson's is rarely put down as the primary cause of death. Usually the death of a person with Parkinson's is the result of some other condition but Parkinson's may contribute to a shortening of life. In a booklet titled Parkinson's and You published by Parkinson's UK it is put this way:
- For the majority of people, Parkinson’s will not affect their life expectancy. However, some of the more advanced symptoms can lead to increased disability and poor health, which can make someone more vulnerable to infection.
Is Parkinson's contagious?Edit
What are the usual early symptoms and what confirms the diagnosis?Edit
The first symptoms displayed by a person diagnosed with Parkinson's are likely to include tremor, stiffness, slowness of movement and problems with posture and balance. (Often tremor is not one of the presenting symptoms.)
These will suggest to the neurologist that it is likely to be Parkinson's but there are a number of other tests that the neurologist will performed during an examination to help with diagnosis. There is no definitive test for confirming Parkinson's.
It is often difficult, especially in the early stages, to differentiate between Parkinson's and other Parkinsonian syndromes such as MSA and PSP.
How will the disease progress?Edit
Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disease for which there is currently no cure. Over time the movement difficulties will get worse (although medication can effect a satisfactory improvement at first). Eventually symptoms like a pronounced stoop, reduced facial expression (Parkinson's mask) and difficulty in initiating movement (freezing) are likely to occur and other symptoms which are often not realised to be part of the disease such as constipation, bladder problems, depression, handwriting problems, and speech and swallowing difficulties become more troublesome. Some side effects of the medication can occur (such as involuntary movements known as dyskinesia and obsessive-compulsive disorders). The more advanced stages of Parkinson's often involve cognitive problems. A person with Parkinson's can, however, expect an reasonable quality of life over very many years. 
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- Parkinson's and you, published by Parkinson's UK, is an introductory guide to Parkinson's. It contains information about symptoms, treatments and living with Parkinson's. http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/PDF/B181_Parkinsonsandyou.pdf
- Northwest Parkinson's Foundation has a good section on PD Symptoms: https://www.nwpf.org/wellness/PhysicalHealth/ParkinsonsHealth/PDsymptoms.aspx
- NICE Guidelines for Parkinson’s disease - Diagnosis and management in primary and secondary care http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/10984/30088/30088.pdf
- Maryland Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease http://www.umm.edu/parkinsons/signs.htm
- Parkinson's Disease Foundation, What is Parkinson's disease? - Progression http://www.pdf.org/en/progression_parkinsons