1. Early symptoms of Parkinson’s
2. Stages of the condition
3. Diagnosis of the disease
4. Preventive measures
5. Methods of treatment
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the brain. It manifests itself in a range of motor and cognitive disorders (thinking, memory). It is growing in disability and mortality much faster than other neurological disorders. There is currently no cure, but early detection can halt or slow down the progression of the disease. Read about the diagnostics and management of this diagnosis in our article.
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The first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease destroys cells in the nervous system. It is constantly progressing and leads to disability. The symptoms become more pronounced and severe over time. It is therefore important not to miss the progression of the disease and its first signs. This will enable therapy to begin in good time and significantly increase the prognosis of life.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may be subtle or easily ‘masked’ by other conditions. The onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 55 and 60. If the disease develops in people over 60, it can take several years from the time the first symptoms appear until the diagnosis is made.
Parkinsonism most often begins with changes in gait, tremors, muscle weakness, impaired fine motor skills, loss of sense of smell, dizziness, sleep problems and “sparse” facial expressions. The person speeds up their steps but shortens the distance between them.
Men are more often affected by Parkinson’s disease than women. Their symptoms are similar. However, the initial manifestations of the disease may differ. For example:
tension in the neck muscles,
emotional depression and apathy,
soreness in the neck and shoulder area,
impaired fine motor skills in the hands.
slowing of movements,
trembling of the limbs,
difficulty moving the arms while walking,
problems with potency,
excessive aggression, bitterness.
In young people, the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may appear between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease usually begins with a disruption of the muscular system. Patients have involuntary muscle contractions in the feet or shoulders. This initially causes mild discomfort, but later on, it becomes painful. It is easy to confuse these symptoms with joint problems.
Young people with Parkinson’s disease usually have a more rapid progression of the disease. This is why seeing a doctor at the right time is critical to improving the effectiveness of treatment.
For early diagnosis of Parkinsonism abroad, contact the experts at MediGlobus, the international medical platform. We will help you choose the right clinic for your neurological check-up and organise your trip.
Stages of Parkinson’s disease
According to the Hoehn-Yahr (HY) staging system, Parkinson’s disease is divided into five stages, each with its manifestations. These are:
At this stage, patients experience mild symptoms that do not interfere with daily life. The impairment affects only one side of the body. There may be a faint tremor and decreased sensitivity in the hand, poor facial expressions, impaired fine motor skills, stiffness or sluggishness of movement.
In this stage, symptoms will worsen and the patient has little difficulty with everyday activities. However, they do not usually need help from others. The motor impairment extends to both sides of the body. The affected person has difficulty walking and maintaining balance. He or she has a worsening emotional background.
Stage 3 Parkinsonism is more severe than stage 2. Loss of balance and slowness of movement are pronounced. In everyday life, the person can do many things on their own, but it is difficult.
At this stage, the patient can stand unaided but requires support or mobility aids (e.g. walker). Reaction speed is significantly reduced and there are marked problems with balance. Memory problems, confusion and hallucinations occur.
In this stage of Parkinson’s disease, the patient experiences stiffness in the legs. Standing or moving around on their own without a wheelchair is impossible. The person needs 24-hour nursing care. They have more frequent episodes of delirium and hallucinations.
Early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinsonism is diagnosed based on a medical history, analysis of signs noticed by the patient or their relatives, imaging tests, the results of laboratory tests, and neurological and physical examinations.
There is no unique test that can make an immediate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Instead, the diagnosis is established by excluding pathologies with similar symptoms. Several sophisticated diagnostic procedures can also be carried out in modern hospitals abroad, enabling the disease to be detected accurately and as quickly as possible.
Leading general clinics in Turkey, Spain, Israel, Germany, South Korea and other countries with developed medicine offer patients special diagnostic programmes – check-ups. This is a series of individual examinations and consultations with specialists in various fields. Such check-up programmes differ from standard diagnostics by a personal approach and the possibility of choosing examinations adapted to a specific person’s body features. They can be completed in just 2-3 days and the results are available as soon as possible.
The following imaging tests are most commonly used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease:
Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
A type of emission tomography that produces detailed 3D images of the brain and detects the dysfunction of dopamine neurons. It helps to differentiate Parkinson’s disease from other pathologies in 97% of cases.
Positron emission tomography (PET)
Radionuclide-based diagnosis of changes in brain structure. During the procedure, 18 F fluorodeoxyglucose is used. This substance is given intravenously. It marks the areas of the brain that are active at the time of the scan. L-dopa (levodopa) labelled with radioactive fluorine is used to detect dopamine deficiency in brain cells during PET diagnosis.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
An examination that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce clear images of the brain. It makes it possible to assess structural abnormalities in the brain and its functionality. MRI scans show abnormalities hidden behind bone tissue.
Preventing Parkinson’s disease
Since the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, there is no way to come up with specific proven methods of preventing the disease. However, some preventative measures do exist. These include physical activity and a healthy diet.
Exercise is not only a good option for combating Parkinsonism, but it is also an effective way of preventing or delaying the onset of the disorder. Exercise helps to develop strength and endurance, as well as improve coordination and balance.
Particular attention should be paid to aerobic exercise (e.g. swimming, walking, running). They activate the cardiovascular system, giving better blood supply to brain tissue and creating defence mechanisms.
Equally important in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease is nutrition. A proper diet allows you to have enough energy and maintain your overall health. A daily diet to prevent Parkinsonism should include vegetables and fruit, lean protein, beans and legumes, and Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Foods containing antioxidants should be consumed. For example:
purple, red and blue grapes,
raspberries and strawberries,
broccoli, spinach and cabbage,
Effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinsonism is treated abroad according to current international protocols. Different criteria are taken into account when choosing a treatment regimen: age and general condition of the patient, response to previous treatment, and the severity of the pathology. A multidisciplinary team of specialists, including a neurologist, neurosurgeon, physiotherapist, speech therapist, etc., develops the treatment programme.
The first line of treatment for Parkinson’s disease is drug therapy. Drugs help to restore dopamine deficiency and alleviate symptoms.
If conservative treatment fails, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can be used. This is a minimally invasive intervention that involves inserting electrodes into specific parts of the brain to block abnormal signals.
The effectiveness of the method is 85-90%. After DBS, body tremors are relieved and coordination and fine motor skills improve. Patients can reduce their medication dose.
In addition to medication and deep brain stimulation, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, occupational therapy and classes with a speech therapist are recommended. Major general clinics abroad have rehabilitation units for Parkinson’s patients. Here patients are helped to regain control of their movements and be as independent as possible in everyday life.
The exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown. However, it is thought that genetic disorders, age-related changes in the body, hereditary predisposition and other factors influence the likelihood of its occurrence.
The first signs of Parkinson’s disease in women and men are virtually the same. It usually begins between the ages of 55 and 60. However, it is also possible for 20-40-year-olds to develop the disease. Parkinson’s patients may develop tremors, weak muscles, poor facial expressions, a loss of sense of smell, and sluggish movements. Over time, they suffer from frequent loss of balance, hallucinations, delusions and an inability to move about independently and take care of themselves.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease requires a comprehensive approach. The diagnosis is made based on the clinical picture, the results of the neurological examination and laboratory tests, as well as imaging tests (MRI, PET, SPECT).
The disease can be prevented by diet and exercise. Treatment involves taking medication that compensates for the lack of dopamine. Deep brain stimulation may also be prescribed. Physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychotherapy may be used in conjunction with these methods.
To increase the effectiveness of Parkinson’s disease therapy, you should contact specialised rehabilitation centres abroad. To choose the right clinic, click on the button below and fill in the feedback form. We will help you with your travel arrangements and will be in touch with you 24/7.
- The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA)
- Health Dotdash Meredith
- Medical News Today
- The Parkinson’s Foundation
- The University of Maryland School of Medicine