Parkinson’s disease (PD) is an incurable neurodegenerative disease hallmarked by damage to the dopamine-producing (dopaminergic) neurons of the brain, specifically in the substantia nigra (SN) area, that causes motor impairment and a myriad of symptoms. The disease is generally progressive and may not be diagnosed until later stages when Lewy bodies (accumulation of abnormal alpha-sinuclein) are identified in the SN and have already caused significant damage to the nervous system.
The Prevalence Project of the Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that nearly one million Americans over age 45 will be diagnosed with Parkinson's by 2020, a number expected to rise to 1.24 million by 2030. It found that men are at higher risk than women and that the risk for everyone increases with age although an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before age 50. Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson's disease than women.
Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with PD may experience:
-Tremor, mainly at rest and described as pill rolling tremor in hands.
-Gait and balance problems
Neurodegenerative diseases like PD are also thought to have environmental triggers. Pesticides and head trauma have been linked to PD, but there are likely many, many more factors.
Scientists have found more new evidence that Parkinson's could start in the gut before spreading to the brain, observing lower rates of the disease in patients who had undergone a truncal vagotomy, a surgical procedure used to treat chronic duodenal ulcers.
Alpha-synuclein occurs naturally in the nervous system, where it plays an important role in synaptic function. However, in Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and other neurodegenerative diseases termed "synucleinopathies”, this protein is accumulated within neurons, forming pathological aggregates. Distinct areas of the brain become progressively affected by this condition.
The altered gut microbiome (our huge ecosystem of bacteria, virus, and fungi that live in our gut) from years and years of chronic dysbiosis is a target for potential treatment and prevention of Parkinson's Disease. This theory once again shows the importance of the Gut-Brain Connection and the importance of an integrative approach to treatment.