Today is World Parkinson’s Day 2018
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition. This means that it causes problems in the brain and gets worse over time. The number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK about 145,000. That’s around 1 adult in every 350.
People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died. There are lots of different treatments, therapies and support available to help manage the condition.
Types of Parkinson’s
Parkinsonism is a term that covers a range of conditions that have similar symptoms to Parkinson’s. Most people with a form of parkinsonism have Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, also known as Parkinson’s
Idiopathic Parkinson's disease - or Parkinson's - is the most common type of parkinsonism. Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown.
The main symptoms of idiopathic Parkinson's are tremor, rigidity (stiffness) and slowness of movement. Doctors may diagnose idiopathic Parkinson's by seeing if there is a response to Parkinson’s medication. If symptoms improve, your specialist may confirm an idiopathic Parkinson's diagnosis.
Vascular parkinsonism (also known as arteriosclerotic parkinsonism) affects people with restricted blood supply to the brain - usually older people who have health issues such as diabetes. Sometimes people who have had a mild stroke may experience this form of parkinsonism.
The common symptoms are walking difficulties, urinary incontinence and memory problems. The symptoms of vascular parkinsonism are often the same as normal pressure hydrocephalus, which mainly affects the lower half of the body. Some people with vascular parkinsonism may swing their arms less than those with Parkinson's
A small number (around 7%) of people diagnosed with parkinsonism develop symptoms following treatment with particular medication.
Neuroleptic drugs (used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders) which block the action of dopamine are thought to be the biggest cause of drug-induced parkinsonism.
The symptoms of drug-induced parkinsonism tend to be static. Only in rare cases do they change in the manner that the symptoms of Parkinson's do.
Most people will recover within months, and often within hours or days, of stopping the drug that is the cause.
If you have any concerns book an appoinment with your General Doctor (GP).
For more information visit Parkinson’s UK
Some people with Parkinson’s may have problems with their dental and oral health.
Having Parkinson’s doesn’t mean that you will have problems with your dental health.
But the nature of Parkinson’s, and some of the medication used to treat the condition, may mean that you have more uncommon problems. Parkinson’s symptoms can also make cleaning your teeth more difficult.
The main dental problems you could see are:
- difficulty swallowing
- dry mouth
- increase in tooth decay
- difficulty in controlling dentures
Parkinson’s can cause the muscles in your jaw and face to weaken, which affects the control you have over chewing and swallowing.
Parkinson’s drugs can sometimes reduce the flow of saliva to your mouth. They can also lead to taste disturbances. Saliva is key to oral health.
It is needed for eating, taste and to lubricate food to assist swallowing. It has antibacterial properties and enzymes to help digest food.
A dry mouth can lead to higher rates of tooth decay and gum disease. It can also lead to an increased risk of getting decay in the exposed roots of teeth. It may also cause dentures to become loose and hard to control.
A dry mouth can also increase the harmful effects of sugar on teeth, making it more important to watch what you eat and when you eat.
Tell your dentist that you have a dry mouth. They may ask you what drugs you take, so you may find it helpful to take a list of your medication to your appointments.
You should also mention having a dry mouth to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse as there may be other treatments that doesn’t cause this problem. Saliva substitutes are also available – ask your GP, dentist or local pharmacist about this.
The following tips may help reduce dry mouth.
- try to take frequent sips of water
- chew sugar free gum
- use lip salve or Vaseline to keep your lips moist
- remove dentures at night to give your mouth a chance to recover
- eat a healthy diet. If you are thinking about changing your diet, a dietitian will be able to help you
- smoke – it makes the dryness worse
- use mouthwashes that have not been prescribed by your dentist or doctor. They may contain alcohol, which can increase dryness
- suck sweets to increase saliva – this will increase decay and other oral problems
- sip sugary drinks between meals. This will also increase decay and other oral problems
- use your teeth to open bottles or bite or chew hard objects
Some people with Parkinson’s complain of a burning mouth feeling. This can be due to a dry mouth and or taking levodopa. If you are affected, speak to your dentist or doctor.
As we said not everyone will have these conditions, but if this is a concern for you, please do talk to your dentist, doctor, specialist , or Parkinson's nurse practitioner.