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What causes Parkinson's disease and how can it be treated?

Q: My 57 years old father in law is suffering from Parkinson's disease. He is continuously losing his confidence and moreover, trembling and shaking of his hands and legs have been increasing over the period of time. What causes Parkinson's disease and how can it be treated? What preventive measures should be taken to prevent worsening of the disease?

A:Parkinson's Disease is a fairly common neurological condition, caused by degeneration of neurons producing a chemical called dopamine in a small part of brain. This chemical is very important in modification and fine-tuning of all movement and residual tone in the muscles. Lack of dopamine causes three classical effects: tremors, slowness, and stiffness in the body, along with many other symptoms. All symptoms may not be present in every patient, and the course of this disease (speed and extent of progression and complications) is unpredictable when it comes to an individual patient.

There are some very effective medicines available to treat this disease, but a thorough assessment by a qualified neurologist is necessary before starting treatment, as there are many conditions that closely resemble Parkinson's disease, including side effects of certain drugs. The deficient dopamine can be corrected by supplying this chemical available in tablet form, called levodopa. Now some newer drugs that reduce the progression of this disease are also available. Most of these drugs have side effects, some serious, and should be started only after a neurology consultation.

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