Parkinson's disease is a motor system disorder that causes tremors in the body, making it difficult to eat, walk, or sit still without shaking or jerking. Parkinson's disease affects more than a person's physical movements—the change in brain chemistry also affects their emotions and sleeping patterns. Although there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, several drugs may help reduce the tremors.
According to the Mayo Clinic, scientists do not know what exactly causes Parkinson's disease. Scientists know some of the symptoms are caused when the brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain, die or become impaired. This reduces the amount of dopamine produced.
Symptoms of Parkinson's disease include tremors or shaking, which worsens when the person is not moving. According to FamilyDoctor.org, the tremors can affect one side of the body, including the lower jaw, arms and legs. People with Parkinson's disease often have difficulty walking, getting dressed, completing fine motor tasks, and may produce excess saliva.
Being male, over the age of 50, and having a close relative with the disease increases a person's risk for developing Parkinson's disease. Constant exposure to pesticides or herbicides also increases a person's risk.
The most effective treatment for Parkinson's disease is levodopa. When taken, levodopa converts into dopamine in the brain, reducing symptoms of Parkinson's disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, its effectiveness becomes less stable as the disease progresses.
Dopamine agonists also help reduce symptoms by acting like dopamine in the brain. Although it lasts longer than levodopa, it can cause significant side effects such as hallucinations, sleepiness, and an increase in compulsive behaviors.
Other drugs used to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's disease include enzyme monoamine oxidase B (MAO B) inhibitors, catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, anticholinergics, and amantadine.
Physical therapy, including exercise, helps reduces symptoms by increasing a person's mobility and muscle strength. Physical therapy can also improve a person's balance. Speech therapy can help correct speech difficulties caused by Parkinson's disease.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), deep brain stimulation, a type of surgery, also helps control symptoms. The procedure implants an electrode into the parts of the brain that controls movement, which is connected to a pacemaker in the upper chest. A thin wire, called a pulse generator, connects both of them together. This helps stabilize the brain's response to levodopa while eliminating involuntary movements in people with advanced Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease also causes significant complications, including constipation, a decrease in libido, urinary incontinence or urine retention, difficulty eating due to impaired muscles, and trouble sleeping. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF), depression also affects around 60 percent of people with Parkinson's disease. This can be caused by the chemical changes in the brain, which triggers depression. Untreated depression can lead to suicide.