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About Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurological condition that affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements, including walking, talking and writing. About 120,000 people in the UK are affected. Symptoms usually appear in people over 50 years and the risk of having the condition increases with age. However, younger people can also have Parkinson’s disease, of the 10,000 people diagnosed each year in the UK, one in 20 will be aged under 40 years. Parkinson’s disease occurring between the ages of 21 and 40 years is known as young-onset Parkinson’s disease. If a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease before the age of 18, it is known as juvenile Parkinson’s disease. This is very rare.

Possible Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease often starts on one side of the body first and later affects both sides. The main symptoms include shaking or muscle tremors (one of the first symptoms in three-quarters of people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease). It often starts in the hand with circular movements in the thumb and forefinger. It can also affect your arms, legs and sometimes your head and jaw. The tremor is most obvious when you are at rest, and reduced when you are moving or sleeping. Another symptom is stiffness or rigidity which makes your limbs feel difficult to move. Slow movement or an inability to move are common in people with Parkinson’s disease, for instance, walking may start with a hesitant step, followed by a shuffle without swinging the arms. As different muscles become affected, symptoms that can develop include problems with posture and balance; speech changes (speech may become soft or unvaried); loss of facial expression (such as less smiling, frowning or slow blinking); problems with swallowing.

Western Medicine View

At present there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are a range of treatments available to help control the symptoms and maintain quality of life. Drugs are the main treatment. There are several types available which either increase the level of dopamine that reaches the brain, stimulate the parts of the brain where dopamine works, or block the action of other chemicals that affect dopamine. The drugs may be used on their own or in combination. They have to be prescribed to suit individual needs in terms of type of drug prescribed, dose and times of the day taken. Regular reviews are needed as Parkinson’s disease progresses and individual needs change.

Surgical techniques are also sometimes used to treat people who have had Parkinson’s disease for many years but these are not suitable for everyone.

Therapies such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and self-help strategies can also play an important role in the management of Parkinson’s disease.

Chinese Medicine View

Parkinson’s disease comes under the symptom of Convulsions and is always related to Liver-Wind. The Principles of Medicine (1565) says: “Wind tremors are (caused by) Wind entering the Liver and the Qi of the channels rebelling upwards, this causes tics of the face and tremors of the limbs.”

According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment can be combined to control and slow down the progress of Parkinson’s disease. The sooner the treatment is started after its onset, the better the results. The acupuncture and herbal treatment may be given in conjunction with Western medication. After some weeks of treatment the dosage of the drugs could be reduced but this should be done very gradually

Lifestyle Advice

Working long hours may over time weaken the Kidneys, particularly Kidney Yin (in the Yin-Yang medical theory, Yin includes the cooling bodily liquids and cooling energy). A deficiency in Kidney-Yin will result in a lack of nourishment of Liver-Yin and, in time, this may lead to the development of Liver-Wind which causes tremors. Too much greasy-fried or sweet foods produces Phlegm. With time, Phlegm easily combines with Fire, especially when the person also consumes alcohol. Phlegm-Fire, when associated with Liver-Wind, (which it often is in old people) could cause Parkinson’s Disease. Phlegm obstructs the channels and prevents fluids and Blood from nourishing them, which results in the tremor. Emotional distress such as anger, frustration and resentment may cause Liver-Yang to rise and, with time, this may lead to Liver-Wind and a lack of vital energy.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.