2017 marks 200 years since Parkinson’s was identified as a health condition by Dr James Parkinson (1755-1824.) The London Doctor recognised that the progressive neurological disease affects an individual’s actions to talk, walk and write.
Today, Parkinson’s disease impacts over 1.2 million lives across Europe and European Parkinson’s disease association aims to raise awareness, promoting a greater understanding of the condition and how it affects people. The fundraising will also help to provide opportunities with research projects and resources.
How does the disease affect the body?
As most of us know Parkinson’s affects the way you move, this is due to the nerve cells making a chemical called dopamine, this sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. The disease kills and therefore reduces the numbers of these cells and ultimately effects larger parts of the brain.
This results in aggravation of motor and non motor disorders.
Non motor symptoms include:
- Sleep behavioural disorder
- Reduced sense of smell
- Impaired vision
- Lack of attention
- Difficulties planning and carrying our ordinary tasks (washing, clothing and feeding yourself)
Motor symptoms include:
- Vocal symptoms
- Involuntary movements like tremors or rigidity (where the muscles ‘freeze up’.)
Symptoms are unpredictable and can vary on a time scale as short as 1 minute.
At present there is no prevention to Parkinson’s disease; however current research is focusing on finding a biochemical similarity which all individuals with Parkinson’s disease might share. The last significant drug discovered for Parkinson’s was over 50 years ago, this doesn’t stop, slow down or reverse the condition or its effects, it only temporary masks some of the symptoms.
The research also broadly falls into two categories: genetic and environment research.
Genetic research has so far identified 9 genes linked to this condition, the ‘parkin’ (PRKN) gene is the gene most commonly associated with the disease. Scientific research aims to determine which factors are involved in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the body.
Environment research into Parkinson’s disease focuses on possible environmental factors associated with Parkinson’s disease. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is one of the lead research agencies studying the environmental causes of Parkinson’s in order to reach new targets for prevention and intervention. Over the years, the NIEHS have found that pesticides, dietary factors, exercise, nicotine, head injuries and even air pollution can potentially all be key factors to triggering the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s Awareness week is between the 10th and 16th April and Parkinson’s UK is asking you to tell your story, either about yourself, a friend, colleague or family member. Help to generate conversations and explain how important it is to find a cure for everyone.
Join the Parkinson’s Awareness week and #UniteForParkinsons to grow a global Parkinson’s community, get everyone talking on social media and spread the word.