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Understanding Parkinson's - A hook to Parkinson's

What is Parkinson's?

The origin of the disease

Parkinson's disease - named after the English physician, James Parkinson, who first described it in 1819 - occurs when a certain type of brain cell stops producing a particular substance, Dopamine, which regulates movement but also other functions. It is estimated that approximately 6 million people in the world are affected by this disease. As far as Tuscany is concerned, about 20,000 people are affected, and in Florence alone the number is close to 3,000.

What is Parkinson's?

The causes of Parkinson's

In most cases, the cause of Parkinson's is unknown. Researchers indicate that by 2040 the number of patients suffering from the disease will have doubled compared to today.

What is Parkinson's?

Parkinson's symptoms

Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. A distinction is made between 'motor' symptoms, i.e. affecting movement, and 'non-motor' symptoms

Motor symptoms

  • Stiffness: affects muscles and joints to varying degrees.
  • Slowness: it manifests itself in gait, less swinging of the arms during walking and generally in every day life’s activities.
  • Resting tremor: may affect only the fingers or be spread over the hand or the entire arm. It disappears with voluntary movements

Non-motor symptoms (which do not concern the movement)

  • Constipation: this is one of the most persistent symptoms of Parkinson's disease, often occurring years before the motor symptoms and affecting people during the course of the disease.
  • Hypotension: may occur when moving from lying or sitting to standing. It can lead to dizziness.
  • Sweating problems: increased sweating even when it is not hot
  • Urinary problems: frequent urination or involuntary discharge of urine
  • Apathy: loss of interest and motivation in activities
  • Memory or cognitive problems: ranges from concentration problems which don’t interfere with work or everyday activities, to major issues which do interfere with work or social activities
  • Character disorders: depression and anxiety can gradually set in and progress.
  • Psychosis: seeing things that do not exist (visual hallucinations) or presenting false beliefs.

Other physical changes

Parkinson's can also cause other difficulties:

  • Excessive salivation (sialorrhea): accumulation of saliva due to decreased swallowing
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue: feeling drowsy, sluggish or exhausted; these can be symptoms on their own or result from Parkinson's medication
  • Pain: discomfort in one part of the body or the whole body
  • Skin changes: oily or dry skin; increased risk of melanoma
  • Sleep problems: insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep), restless legs syndrome (an uncomfortable feeling in the legs that disappears with movement)
  • Loss of sense of smell: reduced ability to detect odours
  • Speech problems: speaking in a soft, monotone voice and sometimes slurring words or mumbling
  • Swallowing problems: choking, coughing and throat clearing when eating and drinking
  • Visual changes: dry eyes, double vision and reading difficulties

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A hook to Parkinson's

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