Dr Samuel Bolitho

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects movement. It is a chronic condition that develops over time and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Here are some key factors associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Genetics: While most cases of Parkinson’s disease are not directly inherited, some genetic mutations have been linked to an increased risk of developing the condition. Mutations in genes such as LRRK2, SNCA, PARK2, and PINK1 have been identified in some individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals, has been suggested as a potential risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. However, the role of these factors is still under investigation.
  • Age: Parkinson’s disease is more common in older adults, with the majority of cases diagnosed after the age of 60.
  • Gender: Men are slightly more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is characterised by a wide range of motor and non-motor symptoms. The severity and progression of these symptoms can vary from person-to-person. Some common symptoms include:

Motor Symptoms:

  • Tremors: Involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or face, especially at rest.
  • Bradykinesia: Slowness of movement, making everyday tasks more difficult.
  • Rigidity: Stiffness of the limbs and joints, leading to decreased range of motion.
  • Postural Instability: Difficulty maintaining balance and an increased risk of falls.

Non-Motor Symptoms:

  • Depression and Anxiety: Emotional changes, including depression and anxiety, are common in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Some individuals may experience memory problems and cognitive decline.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Sleep disorders like insomnia and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder are prevalent.
  • Autonomic Dysfunction: This can cause symptoms such as constipation, urinary problems, and low blood pressure.
  • Speech and Swallowing Difficulties: Speech may become softer and less intelligible, and swallowing can be challenging.

Treatment Options for Parkinson’s Disease

  • Duodopa (Levodopa): This is the most effective medication for managing motor symptoms. It is converted into dopamine in the brain.
  • Apomorphine (dopamine agonists): These drugs mimic the effects of dopamine.
  • MAO-B Inhibitors: These drugs help preserve dopamine in the brain.
  • COMT Inhibitors: They prolong the effects of levodopa.

This surgical procedure involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain to modulate abnormal brain activity. DBS can significantly improve motor symptoms in some patients. Dr Bolitho has significant expertise in DBS treatment.

Physical therapy can help improve mobility, balance, and flexibility in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Speech therapy can help individuals with speech and swallowing difficulties.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management can contribute to overall well-being.

Researchers are exploring various experimental treatments, including gene therapy and stem cell therapy, but these are still in the investigational stages.

A comprehensive approach to care, including psychological and emotional support, is crucial for managing non-motor symptoms and improving the overall quality of life.

Parkinson’s disease is a complex condition that requires individualised treatment plans. Patients should work closely with healthcare providers, including neurologists and other specialists, to manage their symptoms effectively. Research into Parkinson’s disease continues, and new treatments and therapies are being developed to provide better options for those living with the condition.

If you have Parkinson’s Disease and you are looking for options to improve your quality of life, please make an appointment with Dr Bolitho for an examination.

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Dr Samuel Bolitho is a Sydney Neurologist with sub-specialised training in movement disorders, essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease. He brings a rare mx of medical, neurological and computational neuroscience expertise to his role, as well as a wealth of experience in biomedical engineering.