WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?
A diagnosis of Parkinson's is life altering but not life threatening, with most patients having a normal life span. In most cases it is not difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. There are no specific or diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis of Parkinson's. The diagnosis is based on the history and signs and may be evident to the expert
eye when the patient enters the consulting room. The signs vary from patient to patient and change in the individual at different times. Movement of the patient may be visibly slow - rising slowly from a chair and walking slowly with short steps and a slow rhythmic tremor of one or both hands are all indicators of Parkinson's disease.
There are four main motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease:-
1. Shaking or tremor
2. Slowness of movement called bradykinesia.
3. Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk.
4. Trouble with balance and falls also called postural instability. Postural instability usually appears later with disease progression and may not be present at initial diagnosis.
There must be two of the four main symptoms present over a period of time for a Neurologist to consider a Parkinson's diagnosis.
In order to confirm the diagnosis and to obtain advice about ongoing treatment most patients should be referred to a hospital specialist - (usually a neurologist) at an early stage. Patients are seen at intervals to assess their progress and drug treatments. The neurologist then arranges for regular follow up appointments.
As yet there are no drugs that will cure Parkinson's or affect the natural progression.
The available drugs reduce the symptoms by replacing the essential chemicals such as dopamine necessary for the normal transmission of nerve impulses and control of movement. Medical treatments
should be tailor - made to suit the needs of each individual patient.
Over the entire course of the illness the treatment will be monitored and fine tuned by medical professionals.