Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects a person’s movement. It is a severe, progressive disease. This means that it worsens as the nerve cells degenerate or break down.
In this recent article, we discuss whether or not you can drive with Parkinson’s Disease.
It explains that the answer must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Many people with Parkinson’s disease can still drive safely.
There is evidence that people living with this disease perform many other activities that require lots of movement. In fact, some of them are even trainers.
In this article we’re going to dig a little deeper and look at the question, what is affected by Parkinson’s Disease? Below you will find the answer to this question in greater detail and learn which parts of the body are most impaired.
What is Affected by Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s most greatly affects the human nervous system. Thus, it is considered a neurological disorder.
More specifically, this disease affects the nerve cells in the motor cortex part of the brain. The motor cortex controls voluntary body movements. More specifically, Parkinson’s is characterized by the degeneration of the nerve cells called the substantia nigra. Substantia nigra produces dopamine.
More on How Nerve Cells Function
To better understand how Parkinson’s affects nerve cells, we must first uncover how our nerve cells function. Nerve cells are the bridge and roadways between the body and the brain.
Much like a messenger, the brain sends the nerve impulses, and the nerve cells deliver these impulses, to different parts of your body. Nerve cells contain a cell body (nucleus), with branching arms attached called dendrites.
Dendrites are like antennae, they pick up messages. Then, axons carry the message from one nerve cell to the dendrites of another nerve cell. But, before the message reaches another nerve cell, it has to cross a tiny gap between nerves, called synapses.
Once the message containing neurotransmitters reaches the synapse, the sac containing it opens. In this case, the neurotransmitter released is dopamine. The dopamine molecules cross the synapse and fit into special receptors on the receiving cell.
That nerve cell is stimulated to pass the message on after which the receptors release the dopamine molecules back into the synapse. The excess dopamine is recycled within the releasing neuron.
What Happens to the Nerves in Parkinson’s Disease?
Sometimes, the substantia nigra, the nerve cells responsible for creating dopamine, deteriorate. That is what we call and diagnose as Parkinson’s disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, rigidity, imbalance, and slowness of movement. These often begin to present themselves when an individual has lost 80 percent of the dopamine from the deteriorating substantia nigra.
The root cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown. This is because we lack an understanding as to why the nerve cells start to die.
How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is based upon a few key symptoms. These include trembling of the hands, arms, and feet, stiffness, and imbalance, to name a few. No blood tests or X-ray can confirm diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
However, some non-invasive imaging tests such as positron emission tomography also known as PET, can help in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease faster.
In conclusion, the body structure most affected by Parkinson’s disease is the nervous system, Most specifically the nerve cells known as the substantia nigra.