Dr. Joon Faii Ong is a qualified expert in Parkinson’s Disease and other tremor disorders. He is intimately familiar with the struggles faced by sufferers of Parkinson’s’ Disease. This article gives tips for enhancing the overall quality of life for sufferers of this disease.
What sort of symptoms can be seen in Parkinson’s Disease patients?
Patients with Parkinson’s Disease typically present with four main symptoms: tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movements), and postural instability. The tremors are most often diagnosed as resting tremor, which is usually bilateral but sometimes unilateral. The most common form is that of a resting pill-rolling tremor with thumb and forefinger. Other forms include an action or kinetic tremor, which occurs with voluntary movement such as writing, drinking from a cup, and eating. Tremors can also occur in other body parts such as the jaw (often causing problems with speech), tongue, head, and facial muscles.
Rigidity is resistance to passive movement of the limbs, often described as stiffness, cogwheeling, or lead pipe rigidity. It can present with a ratchet-like quality where there are sudden bursts of movement followed by periods of immobility. In some cases, rigidity can be severe enough to cause buckling of the knees, or on occasion, unable to raise limbs against resistance. Bradykinesia is the lack of spontaneous movement which affects all four limbs and can give rise to problems in initiating movement (akinesia), slowing down movements (dyskinesias), and trouble with holding postures (static tremor). In addition, patients often complain of subjective restlessness and a sense of being unable to relax. Postural instability is a common symptom in Parkinson’s Disease patients, usually giving rise to falls during routine activities such as standing from a sitting position or taking the first step after getting up from a chair. In addition, problems with gait (i.e., the pattern of movement when walking) such as festination (i.e., short and rapid steps with a tendency to fall forward), retropulsion (i.e., the movement towards the back), and freezing (a sudden inability to take another step) can also be seen in Parkinson’s Disease patients.
What can be done to enhance the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s Disease?
Certain modifications to the environment, equipment, and lifestyle can be made which will benefit patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
When walking outdoors or in crowded places, it is helpful to slow down the walking pace by staying close to walls for support if necessary. A walking stick can be useful during these times. Moreover, companions should always walk beside, never in front or behind, to quickly detect obstacles that might lead to a fall.
When sitting in chairs, it is helpful to have the footrest at an appropriate height depending on how high the backrest goes up the chair, i.e., not too high so that reaching over becomes difficult or too low so that standing up requires effort.
Concerning sleeping, a slightly softer mattress or pillow can provide comfort, especially for those who have problems lying flat. In addition, the use of a clock with luminous hands and backlighting can help patients monitor their medication intake at night without having to turn on the lights.