Parkinson's disease is a neurological movement disorder that is progressive and degenerative. The disease results in reduced levels of dopamine, a substance that acts as a brain messenger to the centres that control movement, causing the death of the brain cells that produce it.
Worldwide, it is estimated that there are between 7 and 10 million people with Parkinson's disease. In Portugal, there are around 20,000 Portuguese suffering from the disease.
The main symptoms are: tremor (it often starts with an occasional tremor in a finger that spreads to the whole arm); muscle rigidity (it often starts in the legs and neck); slowness or absence of movement (losing the ability to start or maintain a movement) and, finally, postural instability (stooped position, with the head tilted and shoulders slumped).
Although there is still no cure, the symptoms can be controlled with various types of medication, which stimulate the release of dopamine if there are still dopamine-producing brain cells. It should be noted that choosing the right treatment always depends on the stage of the disease.
The great news is that the University of Beira Interior (UBI) and the University of Turin in Italy are studying a new drug that aims to "slow down" Parkinson's disease after diagnosis. This drug aims to paralyse the degenerative effect of the disease by not letting the dopamine-producing brain cells die. As well as being used in Parkinson's patients, the drug in question could also be administered to patients with Alzheimer's or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Expresso, 2023).
Practising physical exercise and eating a balanced diet are important tips for improving quality of life and increasing body control.