PMy husband’s brother — who he is very close to — has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s
disease. He is only in his late fifties. Although our families are close, we don’t have much information about the diagnosis as he doesn’t want to talk about it. My husband is very worried about him and doesn’t know what to expect in the years ahead. He’s also concerned for our family — he is worried that the illness may run in families and that it might affect our own children later on in life. Can you give him any information about what he can expect for his brother, and are there any new
treatments or breakthroughs which we could point his brother towards? ARKINSON’S disease is a chronic progressive neurological condition. It is thought to affect about one in 500 people and occurs more commonly in men than women. Symptoms more commonly occur in those over the age of 50 but it can also occur in younger people. The actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at a young age and has done a lot to raise the profile of this disease.
Parkinson’s disease occurs due to the loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which results in reduced levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This hormone assists in smooth movement of the body. When levels of dopamine are reduced by 60pc to 80pc classic movement symptoms of Parkinson’s may occur. It is thought to take many years for this reduction to occur so research today is trying to identify ways to diagnose this before dopamine levels have dropped so low.
There are many symptoms that may suggest Parkinson’s disease. Losing your sense of smell may be an early symptom and can occur many years before others appear. Constipation may occur as movement through the gut slows. There may be some difficulty swallowing foods or a feeling of things occasionally catching in the throat. The arms tend not to swing when walking in those with Parkinson’s disease. There may also be a change in facial features often referred to as a “masked face”. This results in a stern look and lack of facial expression. This can be associated with a blank stare and reduced blinking. Speech changes occur. Speech may become soft or hoarse and occasionally slurred. Balance problems and dizziness can be symptoms of the condition or may also occur as a side effect of Parkinson’s medication. Writing may become very small.
Mental symptoms include anxiety, depression, memory problems in some and sleep problems.
The classic symptoms of Parkinson’s remain the presence of a tremor,