Understanding Parkinson’s Disease And Mental Health

According to the oxford dictionary, Mental illness is a condition which causes a serious disorder in a person’s ability to think and his behavioral functions. These symptoms may vary even with people having the same diagnosis. The genetic structure, the lifestyle and his or her living environment can be the deciding factors in ones lives whether one would suffer from mental illness or not. [Also read: Mental Health Conditions]

According to a recent study in the United States, Parkinson’s disease is the second most neurodegenerative illness causing mental health problems like depression, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

Parkinson’s disease has been found in people with age groups above 50 and is a kind of movement disorder. It starts with the person initially feeling weak and then gradually getting to reduction of voluntary movements such as stiffness of limbs and difficulty in walking. Others may even notice tremor of head or hands. These physical aspects of the disease are its defining characteristics of Parkinson’s disease. However, apart from just physical aspects PD has a greater effect considering the patient’s “quality of life”.

Depression is one of the most common psychiatric or mental illness found in PD patients. A few of the many symptoms used to diagnose depression are poor sleep, loss of energy, poor concentration and retardation.

The degree of PD would be the deciding factor in determining the treatment course to be adopted. Many good neurologists and Movement disorder specialist ask very specific pointed questions to decide whether one should start on medication or not. The most important factor for their consideration would be that how much of the symptoms affect the patient’s quality of life. If the effect is minimal medications probably will not be prescribed.

The muscle stiffness, weakness and the tremors can interfere with day to day activities.

Exercising can be an essential part in managing the symptoms of the disease such as Swimming, Yoga, joining classes which have largely been adopted from boxing skills, joining dance classes or even “gait training” which involves practicing new ways to stand, walk and turn can help your muscles stay limber when you are suffering from PD.

Exercise has been seen as a possible intervention in the treatment of PD.

Additionally, consumption of more fruits and vegetables has been considered an important factor in controlling nerve cell function which in-turn help to control the symptoms of PD.

Medication treatment for PD has evolved with great leaps and bounds and physicians have a variety of medications which are known to relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. These drugs have effects on a wide range of our neurotransmitter systems like the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. These medications not surprisingly produce dramatic behavioral changes causing great difficulties to the patients and the families to cope up with.

Visual hallucinations are the most common drug effect seen in PD patients. Since motor symptoms are produced by lack of dopamine in the neurological system Levodopa(L-DOPA) has been a most widely used medication in the treatment of PD for a long time. This drug is known to have temporarily diminishing the motor symptoms. A former strategy to reduce motor complications involves withdrawal of L-DOPA medication for some time. This is discouraged now as it can entail dangerous side effects such as the Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

An complimentary therapy to L-DOPA medication involves several Dopamine agonists which have similar effects to that of L-DOPA and which also is being used as a initial treatment for motor symptoms and has been known to delay motor symptoms.

A win win situation for a patient with PD would be to create a plan to stay healthy which would mean

  • Meeting a Neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain.
  • An occupational therapist who can be a speech or a physical therapist.
  • Start a regular exercise program to delay the symptons.
  • Talk it out with your friends or family who can provide the support you need.
  • Try to have a positive environment around you to fight depression and anxiety

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