Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative condition that affects the nerve cells in the brain responsible for producing dopamine, a chemical required to send messages to the part of the brain that controls movements and coordination. As the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, individuals may experience difficulties in controlling their movements.

Parkinsonism refers to a group of neurological disorders that cause movement problems, including tremors, slow movement, and stiffness. While PD is a cause of parkinsonism, it is not equal to the diagnosis of PD. PD can affect individuals of all ages, but it is more commonly diagnosed in older individuals, with the average age of onset being 60 years.

About 10% of PD cases are inherited, while the majority are multifactorial and the cause remains unknown. However, research has linked PD to environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides, carbon monoxide toxicity, metal manganese, and other chemicals.

PD is often thought of as a disease that only affects movement, but many individuals with PD experience non-motor symptoms, such as loss of smell, sleep problems, constipation, anxiety, and depression, years before the onset of movement symptoms. These symptoms can be troublesome and disabling.

PD is diagnosed clinically based on the individual's history and physical examination. It is important to exclude other PD mimics and secondary causes of parkinsonism. Imaging tests, such as DaT scans, CT brain scans, or MRI brain scans, may provide additional information to support the diagnosis.

The treatment of PD aims to restore dopamine levels and relieve or reduce symptoms. This is typically done with medications, including oral medications or patches. In advanced cases, some individuals may benefit from apomorphine infusion or deep brain stimulation if their symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with oral medications.

Patients with PD do not have to face their diagnosis alone. It is important for individuals with PD to seek the help of a physician or neurologist with a specialist interest in PD, as well as support from organizations like the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA).

Schedule an appointment with our Neurologist to find out more about your health condition.

Article Written By

Dr Goh Kwang Hwee

Neurology & Internal Medicine (Special interest in Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders)

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