Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease is a neurological condition that grows worse over time. Its defining symptoms include shaking and tremors that occur due to disrupted neurons in the brain. Since Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease, symptoms gradually become more and more severe. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that for every 100,000 Americans, 13 will have Parkinson’s. In the majority of cases, it is diagnosed after age 50. (This is considered late-onset disease.) Early-onset Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed before 20 years old.

Causes for Parkinson's

Parkinson’s is caused by a dopamine deficiency and is more likely to occur in people who have a first-degree relative with the disease, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The National Institutes of Health also reports that many brain cells of people with the condition contain protein deposits called Lewy bodies. These proteins are distributed in clumps that may impact cell development. At this point in time, researchers do not fully understand why Lewy bodies occur. Another cause may be linked to mitochondria, which generate energy within each cell. According to the NIH, mitochondria are a top source for cell-damaging molecules called free radicals. This type of damage is called oxidative stress. People with Parkinson’s are more likely to exhibit brain cell changes brought on by oxidative stress.

Treatment

Regardless of the cause, Parkinson’s can be treated in a variety of ways. An approach called deep brain stimulation is becoming a popular new treatment option. It is thought to be especially effective if administered early on in the disease. The procedure involves using a thin electrode to interfere with brain activity. This, in turn, improves symptoms and helps restore normal motor function. Other treatment options involve drugs that boost dopamine levels. A 2013 study out of the University of Washington actually found that consuming peppers on a regular basis may lower Parkinson’s risk by at least 30 percent.

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