What are the first signs and symptoms of Parkinson's?
The first signs of Parkinson’s include resting tremors, slow movement, and rigidity. Medications can ease symptoms for some time but eventually, they don’t work as well. Biomedical engineer Sri Sarma, PhD, explains why in this Ask the Experts video.
So the typical progression, once you're diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, 80% of those neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta
are already dead. And so the first types of symptoms would be resting tremor.
So you have, you know, a tremor in your arms, your legs as you're at rest.
Slowness of movement, stiffness, rigidity. And some patients actually have postural instability.
So they can't stand up straight. Even their walking is impacted. Now, what happens is typically they're
treated with medications, that dopaminergic-type medications. So these neurons that are dying are
what are called dopaminergic-- dopaminergic neurons. They are supplying dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to the brain.
So when they're dying, you want to try to resupply the brain with dopamine. So that's what these medications are trying to do.
But they're not targeted. You're basically supplying the whole body with dopamine when you take these medications. But those medications are effective.
They start suppressing a lot of these symptoms. And for the first 5 to 10 years, a Parkinson's patient
is responsive to those medications. But as they start getting into the later years, 7 years, 8 years, 10 years, now they start becoming more refractory
to the medications. Why? Because, remember, this medication is a therapy. It's not a cure. So the disease continues to progress
as you're on medications. So eventually, they will become less effective. And now, worse, what will happen is
you start getting side effects that are dominating your life versus-- you know, they're outweighing the therapeutic
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