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Saturday 21st April 2018

Warning signs of Parkinson's

4th March 2008

Dr Thomas Stuttaford writes about Parkinson's disease and its early symptoms in The Times.


The European Brain Council (EBC) has this week been examining how Parkinson's disease affects patients and their relatives, in addition to its effect on health services.

The EBC also talked about how well the treatment options for the disease were comprehended by doctors, patients and the press. Better comprehension of how Parkinson's affects sufferers means they have more chance of being treated.

It is important that patients are given specialist treatment and can find out more data from organisations such as the Parkinson's Disease Society. These organisations can ensure the most recent treatment options are kept in the eyeline of medical professionals.

Studies have revealed that the traditional symptoms of the disease - including tremors (shaking), rigid muscles, slow movements - are usually heralded by other signs.

Sleep problems, in particular wanting to sleep during the daytime, often come before the more well-known signs of the disease. Low moods which cannot be explained are another symptom, as is a person losing their sense of smell. Constipation and bladder difficulties are other signs. These symptoms can act as a warning sign for Parkinson's.

Over the last 40 years, advances in treatment have transformed patients' experience of Parkinson's. The absence of dopamine in the brain causes the disease's symptoms. When the chemical is substituted, patients can lead more "normal" lives.

However, there are some side-effects to the treatment. One out of every ten patients find they want to gamble. Adding to dopamine levels affects other areas of the brain which can give patients "a high".

It is surprising how many patients feel the compulsion to gamble. A study conducted in 1983 looked at 1,281 patients who were given dopamine treatment. It found around one in 100 turned into gamblers, regardless of geographic location or if they had been gamblers before. Other patients were found to be addicted to shopping in order to get a thrill.

Increased sex drive was noted through levadopa treatment. Levadopa, according to research from 1969, showed it helped the physical symptoms of the disease as well as increasing desire in male patients.


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