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Introduction

Parkinson's disease refers to a neuro-degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system of the body (Armstrong, 2008). It is caused by the death of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra within the midbrain. These are brain cells that produce dopamine, which helps in ensuring smooth and controlled muscle movements. The death of these cells leads to a drop in the dopamine levels in the brain leading to limited communication between the corpus striatum and the substantia nigra resulting in impaired movement.  Most common symptoms of this disease are movement related and comprise of shaking, slow movement, rigidity, and impaired balance and coordination.  Advanced stages of this disease are characterized by memory loss, and difficulty in talking and disability (Rodriguez-Oroz, et al., 2009). It is the second common neuro-degenerative disorder affecting people over the age of 50. Prevalence of the disease increases with the advancement of years with the average onset of the disease being 60 years.

Due to the rising life expectancy, the number of people with the disease is expected to rise especially in the developed world. The cause for the death of dopaminergic neurons is yet to be established though there are genetic and environmental factors that lead to their deterioration. The increased publicity and interest in the disease has resulted in people affected by the disease coming out and speaking about their lives since they were diagnosed with the disorder. Below is a discussion of some of the findings about the disease based on one of the victims of the disease, Dave Iverson.

The four most significant concepts from the video

It is evident from the video that Parkinson's disease is progressive and incurable. The cure of the disease has not been discovered yet with several research initiatives being carried out on the various aspects of the disease so as to come up with a cure. One of the reasons this is the case is due to the fact that the cause of death of the dopaminergic neurons is not yet known. The disease is progressive over time and gets worse as more of the dopamine producing cells die in the brain. This continues with the symptoms getting worse and the medication becomes ineffective as well as leading to the development of dyskinesia.  

Genetics plays a role in the development of the disease with 5% of the diagnosed people developing the disease as a result of mutations within specific genes (Davie, 2008). There are six known genes that develop mutations leading to the development of the disease. Of interest is the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) mutation that makes Iverson to wonder whether his family's disease began thousands of years ago. This is as a result of speculations by a doctors who suggests to Iverson that his genetic form of disease could have begun when his seafaring ancestors traveled from Norway to Carthage. 

There are environmental contributors to Parkinson's as well. One of these contributors is 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP), a neurotoxin that was used in a formerly popular herbicide. This toxin is known to cause permanent symptoms of the disease as it leads to the destruction of the dopaminergic neurons in the brain. The toxin is a lipophilic compound that is able to enter the brain and Parkinson's disease in humans and primates.    

Since the disease is incurable, medication that has been developed helps the victims to cope with it. Medication consists of dopamine agonists, levopoda, and MAO-B inhibitors family of drugs. The stage in which the disease is at determines the family of drugs to be used. Levopoda is the most used treatment with the active ingredient L-DOPA being transformed into dopamine within the dopaminergic neurons (Davie, 2008). A prospective cure of the disease is based on stem cell research that has gained popularity in the recent past. In addition, research suggests that doing exercises may help in protecting the brain from the progression of the disease through altering the chemistry of the brain.

Two challenges in finding a cure

One of the challenges in finding a cure is the fact that the cause of the disease is unknown yet. Scientists and researchers have not yet found what causes the dopaminergic neurons to die (Davie, 2008). Without the knowledge of what causes this death, it is hard for the researchers to develop medication that can completely stop the death and at the same time enable the dopaminergic neurons to start producing dopamine again. The other challenge is the lack of adequate funding to carry out research into the disease. This hampers research activities to find the cause of the disease as well as develop suitable medication to cure the disease.   

Two aspects of the stem cell controversy

The first aspect of the stem cell controversy is that the use of stem cells in treating the disease has not resulted in any changes in some of the patients while making the disease worse in others. There have been cases where the transplanted stem cells revert into being just stem cells instead of developing into the cells that they were meant to be. In addition, stem cells posses the ability to develop into several kinds of cells which could be disadvantageous as they could develop into the wrong kind of cells rather than those they were intended (www.pbs.org). 

Another aspect of the controversy is fact that stem cell research has been hampered by the moral consideration ensuing from the use of embryonic transplants in treating the disease. This is the case much so after President Bush rejected legislation that was meant to expand the federal support of research into the use of embryonic stem cell (Gay Stolberg, 2006). In addition, there have been campaigns by pro-life activists against stem cell research.

Two approaches that help people cope with this disease

One of the approaches to coping with the disease is rehabilitation through a wide regimen of therapies aimed at improving mobility, occupational, and speech problems encountered by the patients of the disease. The Lee Silverman voice treatment is the most used speech therapy used for patients with the disease. Physiotherapy and physical exercises help to improve mobility, strength, and the gait of the patient. Occupational therapy is aimed at improving the quality of life of the patients by assisting them in participating and carrying out daily activities.

Another approach is diet with the major focus being a balanced diet. This is necessary because patients with the disease usually develop constipation and gastroparesis. A balanced diet is important as it helps the patient from getting recurring constipation and gastroparesis as well as avoiding the gain or loss of weight (Davie, 2008). In addition, a diet with less proteins is introduced in the later stages of the disease since proteins and the medication Levopoda utilize a similar transportation system within the small intestines in the body and therefore end up competing for access.  

Conclusion

Parkinson's disease refers to a neuro-degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system of the body.  It is caused by the death of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra within the midbrain. From the video, it is evident that Parkinson's disease is progressive and incurable. Genes have been found to play a role in the development of the disease with 5% of the diagnosed people developing the disease as a result of mutations within specific genes. Medication consists of dopamine agonists, levopoda, and MAO-B inhibitors family of drugs. Challenges to finding a cure include the unknown cause of the disease and the lack of adequate funding. Aspect of the stem cell controversy is that the use of stem cells in treating the disease has not resulted in any changes in some of the patients while making the disease worse in others and that stem cell research has been hampered by the moral consideration ensuing from the use of embryonic transplants in treating the disease. Rehabilitation and diet help patients with the disease to cope.

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