There are a number of Parkinson's disease stages, as each patient goes through the disease, the symptoms and physical effects seem to worsen and become more severe. Understanding more about the disease and the stages, causes, and symptoms associated with it is important, especially because it is becoming more and more prevalent in the country.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the United States will be living with the disease by 2020 and about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that leads to many physical problems including shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with things like walking, balance, and coordination. Parkinson’s predominately affects neurons in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra, an area that produces dopamine.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s generally develop slowly over years. People with Parkinson’s can experience issues such as tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness of the limbs, balance problem, and more.
Along with movement-related, or motor, symptoms, Parkinson’s may be unrelated to movement. For example, some people with Parkinson’s disease deal with many other issues including:
- Sleep behavioral disorders
- Loss of smell
- Cognitive impairment
Whatever the specific issue may be, it is important to understand how Parkinson’s progresses and what the stages of the disease are.
Parkinson’s Disease Stages
Parkinson’s disease impacts people in many different ways, the experience is different for everyone. While everyone won’t experience the same symptoms, there is a typical pattern of progression for people who are dealing with the disease.
Stage One — During the first stage of Parkinson’s disease, a person will experience mild symptoms but it will normally not interfere with daily activities and day-to-day life. Symptoms during this stage generally deal with changes in posture, walking, and facial expressions.
Stage Two — During stage two of Parkinson’s disease, symptoms begin to worsen. Tremors and rigidity begin to appear to affect both sides of the body. Walking problems become more apparent during this stage however, a person still is able to live independently
Stage Three — The third stage of the disease is characterized by a loss of balance and slowness of movements. During this stage, falls become more common but a person is still able to like fully independently. However, some symptoms could impair day-to-day activities.
Stage Four — By stage four, symptoms become severe and can limit your daily life. At this point, it is possible to stand without assistance, but movement may require a walker. Stage four is the point at which a person will need help with daily life and is unable to live alone.
Stage Five — This is the most advanced and debilitating stage of the disease and it is characterized by stiffness in the legs that may make it impossible to walk or even stand. Many times, a person requires a wheelchair or is bedridden.
Causes of the Disease
Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells are in an area when the brain controls movement become impaired or die. When neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness. The less dopamine in the body also impacts a person’s movement ability. However, scientists still do not understand what causes the cells that produce dopamine to die.
While there is no concrete evidence for the causes of Parkinson’s, there are theories. For example, Braak’s hypothesis is one of the most notable theories when it comes to Parkinson’s. Heiko Braak, MD, outlined the theory in 2003 when he suggested that rather than beginning in the brain, the disease begins in the periphery of the body. The hypothesis proposes that the earliest signs for the disease are found in the gut and the area in the brain associated with smell.
Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. With that said, there are medications that are available to help control symptoms that are associated with the disease and, in some cases, surgery may be advised for some.
Some medications are available for helping to treat symptoms related to motor function such as walking, movement, and tremors. These medications can help to increase or substitute dopamine in the body. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of drugs frequently diminish or become less consistent.
Levopda is the most effective Parkinson's disease medication. It is a natural chemical that passes into the brain and is then converted to dopamine. In this medication levodopa is combined with carbidopa which protects the levodopa from early conversion into dopamine outside the brain, helping to prevent and lessen side effects such as nausea. However, as mentioned above, as the disease progresses, the benefits of levodopa may become less stable and will have a tendency to wear off.
There are a number of other medication options available for those with Parkinson’s disease such as dopamine agonists, amantadine, and anticholinergics.
Meanwhile, there are some types of surgery that can may be beneficial for those dealing with Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation is one of these types of procedures. It works by connecting electrodes that send electrical pulses to the brain that may reduce Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
It is obvious that Parkinson’s disease is a serious and debilitating disease that can influence and affects an individual’s ability to function properly, it affects motor functions and non-motor functions and can lead to symptoms such as shaking, tremors, loss of balance, depression, apathy, and more. Due to the fact that there is currently no cure available, the best that medical care providers can offer is medication and operations to help with some of the associated symptoms of the disease.
Despite the ability to help counter some of the symptoms, Parkinson’s disease stages may still be too problematic for seniors to live on their own. Luckily, there are senior living communities in Beverly available, such as Landmark Senior Living, that can help provide your loved one with the care that they need and deserve at this stage in their lives. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website.