Approximately, 60,000 older adults are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. every year, according to the National Parkinsons Foundation.
Researchers have discovered that certain pesticides can interfere with cell function and proliferation of the disease. Most recently, another study substantiated the initial claim. The controlled study conducted by researchers at the IRCCS University Hospital, San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy, involving 89 cases showed that the possibility of developing Parkinson’s disease may increase by 33 to 80 percent.
The first study was done in 2011 by the National Institutes of Health, involving 357 patients with recent Parkinson’s diagnosis compared to 754 participants without the disease living in a major agricultural region in central California to determine their proximity to pesticide spraying since 1974. They were also asked to report any Post-Traumatic head injuries when they have been unconscious for at least five minutes.
Surveys revealed that close to 12% of individuals with Parkinson’s have been knocked unconscious and 47% were exposed to paraquat herbicide near their workplace or home.
The Environmental Risk Factors
Medical theories points to MPTP toxin that can destroy the dopaminergic neurons (brain cells) in the brain and cause permanent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Exposure to toxins such as carbon disulphide, manganese dust, and carbon monoxide poisoning can cause rapid destruction of the brain cells. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs included exposure to a chemical used by the military warfare program called Agent Orange.
In the May issue of Neurology, lead researchers Dr Gianni Pezzoli and Dr Emanuele Cereda admit that the evidence was inconclusive. The researchers study the effects of fungicides, rodenticides, herbicides, solvents, paraquat, DDT, solvents, and other forms of agricultural chemicals, in relations to the disease’s pathogenesis. Dr James Bower, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, said that it was consistent with the previous research, but the study still cannot prove that pesticides cause the development of the neurological condition.
Parkinson’s Disease Linked to certain genes
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects the movement. It gradually starts from a barely noticeable tremor in one hand, but the disorder also causes stiffness and slowing of the movement. Early stages of the condition indicate masked face, trouble moving or walking, loss of smell, tremor or shaking, fainting, and stooping or hunching over. The symptoms may worsen as the condition progresses. The exact cause for the degeneration of cells is still a mystery.
Certain genes have been linked with the disease. At least 15% to 20% of patients have a close relative showing symptom of the condition. The National Human Genome Research Institute pinpointed a gene on chromosome four called alpha Synculein gene, closely linked with Parkinson’s in many families. The symptoms usually appear at 50 or older.
Prognosis of PD
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the decrease of the human brain to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine that leads to tremors and decrease in motor control. Treatment options are limited to Parkinson’s patients. Although some patients are severely disabled, others are experiencing minor motor disruptions. While tremor is a major symptom for many patients, others are less likely to develop this symptom. No one can tell which symptoms may affect individual patients, and the intensity of the symptoms may vary.
The complications of Parkinson’s include pneumonia, choking, and falls that could lead to injury or even death. This simply shows that, the complications of the disease are responsible for lower life expectancies, and not the disease itself.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke is conducting research at the National Institutes of Health and supports additional research through grants to major medical organizations in the country. Current research programs funded by the NINDS are currently using animal models to study how the disease progresses, in order to develop new drug therapies. The study also includes how defective genes, genetic factors, toxins, and other environmental factor that trigger Parkinson’s disease.
Is there any treatment?
Presently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, although a variety of medications like levodopa can relieve the symptoms. In rare cases where the disease does not respond to drugs, a surgery may be required. FDA has now approved deep-brain stimulation (DBS) where electrodes are implanted in the brain and connected to a small electrical device that can be programmed externally.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas