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Parkinson’s Disease: What It Is and How It Manifests

The Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the motor system. Described by the English doctor James Parkinson in 1817, it is characterized by a progressive loss of motor functions, resting tremors, muscle rigidity, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), and postural instability. It usually manifests after the age of 60, but it can also occur before the age of 50.

It is caused by the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a region of the brain crucial for movement control. The lack of dopamine leads to ineffective communication between nerve cells, causing typical motor symptoms. Besides motor symptoms, Parkinson’s can present non-motor symptoms such as depression, sleep disturbances, and cognitive alterations.

Parkinson: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis


The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can vary greatly among patients and are divided into motor and non-motor symptoms. The main motor symptoms include:

Resting tremor: an involuntary tremor that generally starts in one hand or arm.
Bradykinesia: slowness in voluntary movements and difficulty in initiating movements.
Muscle rigidity: resistance to passive movements of the limbs.
Postural instability: balance and coordination problems that can lead to falls.
Non-motor symptoms may include:

Sleep disturbances: such as insomnia, fragmented sleep, and nightmares.
Cognitive problems: memory decline and concentration difficulties.
Depression and anxiety: common in patients with Parkinson’s.
Autonomic dysfunctions: constipation, urinary problems, and orthostatic hypotension.

The precise causes of Parkinson’s Disease are still under study, but it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to the development of the disease. Specific genetic mutations, such as those in the LRRK2 and PARK7 genes, have been identified in a small percentage of cases, indicating a hereditary predisposition in some families. The SNCA gene, which encodes the alpha-synuclein protein, is also involved in the formation of abnormal protein aggregates in the neurons of patients with Parkinson’s.

Environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical toxins can significantly increase the risk of developing the disease. Studies have shown a correlation between these exposures and the incidence of Parkinson’s, suggesting that the environment plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Additionally, advanced age is one of the main risk factors, with incidence increasing significantly after age 60. This could be due to the natural reduction of dopamine in the brain that occurs with aging, making individuals more vulnerable to the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons.


The diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease is primarily based on a clinical evaluation of symptoms by a neurologist. There are no specific tests for a definitive diagnosis, but examinations such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) can exclude other conditions. Brain scintigraphy with DatSCAN can detect a reduction in the dopamine transporter, but it is not definitive and is used in conjunction with other evaluations.

A positive response to dopaminergic medications, such as levodopa, is often a strong diagnostic indicator. If symptoms improve with these drugs, it is likely that the diagnosis of Parkinson’s is correct. Assessing the patient’s clinical history and observing symptom progression over time are crucial for an accurate diagnosis.

Additionally, research is exploring the use of biomarkers to improve disease diagnosis. Some promising biomarkers have been identified, such as proteins in cerebrospinal fluid and genetic markers, but these studies require further investigation. The goal is to find reliable biomarkers to facilitate early diagnosis and monitor disease progression.

Therapies and Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

Pharmacological treatment is essential for managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Levodopa is the most effective drug, converting into dopamine in the brain and alleviating motor symptoms. However, over time, the effectiveness of levodopa may diminish, leading to motor fluctuations and dyskinesias. Other medications include dopaminergic agonists, MAO-B inhibitors, and COMT inhibitors, which help prolong the effect of levodopa.
For patients who do not respond adequately to medications, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be an option. This treatment involves implanting electrodes in the brain that emit electrical impulses to regulate motor functions. DBS can significantly reduce symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.

In addition to conventional treatments, many people with Parkinson’s find benefit in complementary therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. These treatments help maintain mobility, improve voice quality, and facilitate daily activities. Regular physical exercise is particularly important for maintaining muscle function and improving balance.

Among the innovative therapies for Parkinson’s Disease, the Gondola AMPS therapy (Automated Mechanical Peripheral Stimulation) is gaining attention. This non-invasive therapy uses a special device that mechanically stimulates specific points on both feet, sending impulses to the brain that enhance functional connectivity between the brain areas involved in movement. This leads to improved walking and balance, consequently reducing the risk of falls and freezing episodes. Clinical studies have shown that the Gondola AMPS therapy can help improve walking, balance, and stability in patients with Parkinson’s, providing an additional tool for managing the disease.

Research and Future of Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

Research on Parkinson’s Disease is continuously evolving, with new studies aiming to better understand the causes of the disease and develop innovative treatments. Gene therapies and stem cell-based approaches are at the forefront of many research efforts, with the goal of repairing or replacing damaged neurons. Additionally, studies are underway to develop new drugs that can slow the disease’s progression rather than merely alleviate symptoms.

The use of technology is opening new avenues for monitoring and treating Parkinson’s. Wearable devices and mobile applications can help patients manage their symptoms and share data with doctors.

Parkinson’s is a complex and debilitating disease that requires a multidisciplinary approach for its management. With ongoing research and innovation in treatments, there is hope to improve patients’ quality of life and eventually find a cure. Early diagnosis and personalized treatment are crucial to effectively addressing this disease. Moreover, psychological and social support plays a crucial role in supporting both patients and their families in managing Parkinson’s.

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