Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the motor system caused by loss of the production of dopamine in the brain cells. Symptoms of Parkinson's disease fall into four primary categories that include trembling of the hands, legs, arms face and jaw; stiffness in the trunk and limbs; slowed movements; and instable or impaired coordination and balance.
Patients with Parkinson's disease typically find it difficult to walk, talk and perform simple daily tasks. Parkinson's disease primarily affects those over 50, but younger people are not necessarily immune to the disease. PD has been found in several patients in their 30s and 40s.
There is currently no cure available for Parkinson's disease, although there are medications used to help provide relief of symptoms. Current medications are used to mimic dopamine in the brain cells, which causes neurons to react normally. In many cases, surgery has been used for patients who are unresponsive to drug therapy. Deep Brain Stimulation has recently been approved. During this surgery, physicians place electrodes into the brain, connecting them to a pulse generator. This small device is programmed externally. This surgery can reduce the need for drugs and aids in reducing symptoms. It does however, require strict and careful programming in order to be successful.
Research being done on Parkinson's disease is currently focusing on the major cause of the disease. Researchers are searching for any environmental factors that may increase the risk of developing PD and studying genetic factors to learn about any defective genes that may raise the risks of developing the disease. Scientists are also working on new medicines that are more effective at easing the symptoms and those that may delay, reverse or even prevent PD.
Scientists from Europe and the United States have pooled their efforts to study DNA samples and information that confirm mutations in certain genes and specific proteins that are present in the general population. These two substances have proven to be risk factors for the disease. Research is being done to determine just how these two substances may lead to the development of Parkinson's disease and ways to block them.
Research in Japan has shown that those of Japanese descent have a combination of genes that put them at a higher risk for developing the disease. In a genome wide study, reports have been done on the DNA of specific chromosomes in specified populations, particularly those with common genetic associations to disease. Studies have been performed on a variety of samples searching for any genetic variations that are common in patients with Parkinson's disease. As of yet however, these reports and studies have failed to identify the genetic variations found.
Scientists have been studying the causes and treatments of Parkinson's disease for decades. With more effective medicines to control the tremors and other symptoms, as well as research into specific DNA and genetic makeup that may play a role in the development of the disease, patients are being pooled for clinical trials and studies more than ever before.