“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” Andy Rooney
Getting older scares everyone. It’s that stage of life where you can’t remember where you put your keys, every part of the body pains, and energy levels drastically droop. On top of it, age-related diseases crop up out of the blue.
The most common age-related diseases are hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia.
It is a well-known fact that the longevity of people has increased. But at the same time newer and a lot more diseases have come up. While most of them can be cured, there are some we have to learn to live with as we age.
One such disease is Parkinson’s. It is named after the British physician James Parkinson who first described it in 1817, this progressive neurological disorder causes tremors, stiffness, and halting movement.
QUICK FACT: Famous personalities like Mohammad Ali, George H W Bush, and Adolf Hitler had battled this disease.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition where a part of the brain deteriorates, causing mild symptoms to gradually become more severe over time. This condition is best known for how it affects muscle control, balance, and movement. It can also cause a wide range of other effects on your senses, thinking ability, mental health, and more.
Who gets Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease affects many people over the age of 65, but about 5% to 10% experience onset before age 50. It is estimated that around one in 10 people over the age of 65 have Parkinson’s disease.
It can also happen in adults as young as 20 (though this is extremely rare, and is often inherited).
While anyone could be at risk for developing Parkinson’s, some research studies suggest this disease affects more men than women.
Early-onset forms of Parkinson’s are often, but not always, inherited, and some forms have been linked to specific gene mutations. Researchers believe the disease can also be caused due to exposure to toxins, environmental factors, or traumatic brain injuries.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease affects a small area of nerve cells (neurons) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra.
These cells produce dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) that transmits signals between areas in the brain. When the neurons die or become impaired, they have less dopamine, which causes the movement problems like slowed movements and tremors associated with the disease.
Why should you be alarmed?
Parkinson’s is increasing at alarming rates and is becoming common. Ranking second among age-related degenerative brain diseases. It’s also the most common motor (movement-related) brain disease.
The definite cause of the disease is still unknown and scientists haven’t found a cure yet. However, there are treatment options to manage its symptoms. People suffering from the disease receive palliative care, which focuses on reducing symptoms and providing a better life for the patient and the concerned kin.
Soon, this disease might one day become a common disease.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease changes the way you think, focus, behave, remember, speak, or sense what’s happening around you. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:
The movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are motor symptoms. The symptoms are:
Slowed movements: The overall movements of the body get slowed down. People often describe it as muscle weakness, but it happens because of muscle control problems, and there’s no actual loss of strength.
Tremors: Rhythmic shaking of muscles even when not in use and happens in about 80% of Parkinson’s disease cases.
Rigidity or stiffness Lead-pipe rigidity and cogwheel stiffness are common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Lead-pipe rigidity is a constant, unchanging stiffness when moving a body part. Cogwheel stiffness happens together with tremor and lead-pipe rigidity.
Unstable posture or walking gait: The slowed movements and stiffness of Parkinson’s disease cause a hunched over or stooped stance. This usually appears as the disease gets worse. It’s visible when a person walks because they’ll use shorter, shuffling strides and move their arms less. Turning while walking may take several steps.
Blinking less often than usual: This is also a symptom of reduced control of facial muscles.
Cramped or small handwriting: Known as micrographia, this happens because of muscle control problems.
Drooling: Another symptom that happens because of loss of facial muscle control.
Mask-like facial expression: In Parkinson’s disease facial expressions change very little or not at all.
Trouble swallowing: This happens with reduced throat muscle control. It increases the risk of problems like pneumonia or choking.
Unusually soft speaking voice: This is due to reduced muscle control in the throat and chest.
There are several symptoms that aren’t connected to movement and muscle control. The non-motor symptoms include:
Autonomic nervous system symptoms: These include orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing up), constipation and gastrointestinal problems, urinary incontinence, and sexual dysfunctions.
Depression: Parkinson’s affects chemicals in the brain. These changes can lead to mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and apathy (lack of motivation or drive).
Loss of sense of smell: This occurs due to degeneration of the anterior olfactory nucleus and olfactory bulb, one of the first parts of the brain affected by Parkinson’s. This happens so gradually that the person won’t even be aware of it.
Sleep problems: such as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), rapid eye movement (REM) behavior disorder, and restless legs syndrome.
Trouble thinking and focusing: As the disease gets worse with time, many people develop dementia. This can cause profound memory loss and makes it hard to maintain relationships.
What is Parkinson’s disease according to Ayurveda?
Sarvānga Kampah śhiraśho vayurvepathu sañjhakah |
According to Ayurveda, increased Vata leads to shivers and tremors in the mind-body.
Generally, when a person gets old, the bodily constitution of Vata increases. This leads to many degenerative diseases. One such according to Ayurveda is Kampa Vata i.e Parkinson’s disease
The increased Vata leads to tremors and shivers in the whole body.
What is the Ayurvedic Treatment for Parkinson’s disease?
According to Ayurveda living in disagreement with one’s unique nature (Prakriti) is the root cause of illness, and true healing requires re-alignment on the physical, mental, intellectual, and pranic levels.
Ayurvedic treatment for Parkinson’s disease is not plain sailing. One or more courses of carefully selected herbs, panchakarma therapy, a proper diet, and a healthy lifestyle are required.
Treatments are both internal and external. The internal treatment includes diets and medicines. The medicines won’t be effective until and unless taken with a proper diet. The external treatment involves Panchakarma procedures.
The Vaidya prescribes herbal medicines that have the potential to lower the Vata constitution in the body. Herbal medicines that have phyto levodopa maintain dopamine levels and exclusively work on tremors, and herbal nerve tonics relieve rigidity and nourish the nervous system. The diet is so modified to improve digestion that directly contributes to the efficacy of the medicines and treatments given. It also involves food that has Vata pacifying qualities in them. These help in controlling the tremors and shivers.
Panchakarma therapy nurtures the nerve cells and decreases the tremors in the body. When this is done along with medicine and diet, the quality of life improves.
The treatment differs from person to person because of the severity of the disease. Therefore, the treatment plan is custom-made for every individual.
Parkinson’s disease has no cure, but Ayurvedic treatment for Parkinson’s disease can be useful not only in managing Parkinson’s symptoms but also in delaying the further development of the condition.