Body Tremors associated with Parkinson's

The Shaking Palsy

Many people associate Parkinson’s disease with shaking or body tremors. Around 70% of people with the condition have a tremor making it one of the most common symptoms and often the first.

It usually starts in one finger, eventually spreading over time to the hand and arm. It can spread to another limb on the same side of the body before progressing to the other side ­ although this sort of progression doesn’t happen in everyone and just one particular part of the body may be affected.

The tremor is often very rhythmic and fairly slow, generally no more than five shakes per second. For some people it causes them to rub their thumb and fingers together -­ an action known as “pill rolling” because it looks likes someone rolling a pill between their fingers.

Tremors can eventually occur in the head, tongue, lips and feet. They appear worse when the body is resting and often stop when the hands are in use or the person is moving about. However they can also become worse if a person is agitated or excited.

For many people with Parkinson’s disease tremors are one of the most embarrassing symptoms because they’re one of the most obvious but there is very effective treatment available.

Treatment for Parkinson’s Tremors

Early tremors are sometimes treated with anticholinergic drugs which work to restore the balance of the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine – the former is deficient in Parkinson’s patients whereas the latter is often overactive. However levadopa-based drugs such as Madapor and Sinemet are becoming the mainstay of treatment and have been found to be fast-acting in controlling. They work by converting into dopamine in the brain. Read about drug treatment for PD.

For people with very severe tremors surgery can be an option, particularly if drug therapy is no longer effective. In the past the most common surgical procedure was thalamotomy – this involves burning away a small part of the brain (the thalamus) which is over active and produces tremors.

But the latest surgery is deep brain stimulation. The benefit is that is doesn’t destroy any part of the brain and the side effects are less than those of a thalamotomy. The procedure involves placing very small electrodes into the thalamus and attaching them to a device very similar to a pacemaker placed underneath the collarbone. This device stimulates the brain and blocks or paralyses the brain signals causing the symptoms. It has been found to be particularly effective in the relief of tremors, particularly in younger people with the disease.

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