Today is celebrated World Parkinson's Day, a pathology considered the second most frequent neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease, which affects the areas of the brain responsible for the control and coordination of movement and muscle tone and posture.
The average age of onset of the disease ranges around 60 years, but when Parkinson's begins to manifest itself, a percentage of those affected do not consult the doctor about their symptoms, considering them as natural aging. For this reason, Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG) recommends to the elderly to consult their Primary Care physician before the appearance of symptoms such as slowness of movement or tremor, so that it considers the need for them to be evaluated by a specialist such as a neurologist or a geriatrician.
By interfering with voluntary movement, it is a disease that directly affects the daily life of the patient and those around him. In the case of the elderly person suffering from Parkinson's disease, it can become more disabling when it coincides with other pathologies that also affect mobility such as osteoarthritis, and cardiorespiratory diseases that limit the ability to perform physical exercise.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Health, in its program of Care for the elderly in Primary Care, one in every 400 neurological patients are patients with Parkinson's disease, detecting a new case per year for every 1,000 inhabitants over 50 years.
Comprehensive treatment of Parkinson's
So far no way to prevent or cure Parkinson's disease has been found. However, the symptoms can be controlled effectively with pharmacological treatment and, occasionally, with surgery.
"The cause of the appearance of this disease is still unknown, although the genetic predisposition and certain environmental factors may have a causal role in the cellular changes that cause the progressive neuronal destruction. Some environmental factors, such as pesticides, well water, living in the countryside, not smoking or drinking little coffee, have also been linked to the onset of Parkinson's disease, but the results of these studies are still inconclusive. ", says Dr. Almudena Garnica, a geriatrician at the Sant Joan de Reus University Hospital and a member of SEGG.
Once the disease is diagnosed, the integral approach of the patient by several professionals (doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, speech therapist, social worker, etc.) is important, in order to be able to assess globally all the physical, psychological and socio-health needs of the patient. Parkinson, points out Dr. Garnica. It is necessary that patients discuss with the specialist the non-motor symptoms (memory problems, alteration in the content of thought, mood disorder, pain, difficulty falling asleep ...), which manifest themselves throughout the illness , and that can be as invalidating as the motor affectation.
It is important that those affected by Parkinson's disease maintain autonomy in carrying out activities of daily living to preserve their self-esteem. In addition, physical exercise, although it does not help to stop the progression of the disease, contributes to preserve the functional capacity of the joints, which is why it is highly recommended for these patients. A good nutritional status, and a balanced diet, rich in fiber and providing adequate hydration, will also contribute to improving the quality of life of these people.
Source: Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology