Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Parkinson's disease is a long-term disorder of caused by the degeneration of dopamine generating cells in the mid-section of the brain. Its cause is unknown. Symptoms gradually worsen over time. Symptoms include stiffness, shaking (tremor) and slowing of movement. There is no cure but treatment can slow down its progression and can provide relief of symptoms for several years. Modern treatment options means you can have a normal or near normal life expectancy.
Profile of patients
Parkinson’s usually develops in people over the age of 50 and is rare in people under 50. It affects about 5 in 1,000 people in their 60s about 40 in 1,000 people over 80. Men are one and a half times more likely to get Parkinson’s than women.
With Parkinson’s, cells in the substantia nigra (the main messaging area in the brain for controlling muscles) become damaged and die over time. Dopamine, the main neurotransmitter becomes depleted due to degeneration of this area which causes Parkinson symptoms.
The three main symptoms are slowness of movement, stiffness and tremor.
Slowness of movement People may mistake this as a normal part of aging which means diagnosis is delayed in many cases. With time, normal walking becomes difficult and Parkinson’s patients often develop a 'shuffling' type of walk with difficulty in starting, stopping, and turning.
Stiffness of muscles (rigidity) is when the muscles become tense with the arms and legs tending not to swing as easily.
Tremor is common symptom of Parkinson’s. About 30% of Parkinson’s patients do not suffer from tremor initially but it always develops as the condition progresses. It usually affects the fingers, thumbs, hands, and arms but can affect any part of the body. Tremor is worse when resting.
The speed in which symptoms become worse varies from person to person. It can take several years before symptoms become bad enough to affect routine tasks and quality of life. Other symptoms which can develop include difficulty with balance and posture. Further symptoms include inability to perform facial expressions like smiling or frowning; reduced blinking; difficulty with fine movements such as using a scissors, tying shoelaces, opening and closing buttons, zipping up and difficulty with writing (handwriting tends to become smaller). There can be a slowdown in speech leading to a monotone voice and swallowing difficulties can develop leading to pooling of saliva in the mouth.
Upcoming Alzheimer’s Information Evening in Mullingar
Whelehans Pharmacy host a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Information evening in the Greville Arms Hotel on Thursday April 27th at 7pm. The event is free of charge and all are welcome. Speakers include:
- Dr Michael O’Cuill, Consultant Psychiatrist; leading Dementia expert in Westmeath.
- Mr Eamonn Brady, pharmacist at Whelehans Pharmacy.
- Donal Murphy, Regional Manager, Alzheimer Society Ireland
Book your place for the evening by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591
To be continued…next week I discuss treatment of Parkinson’s.