Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are both degenerative brain diseases. However, they differ in their symptoms, biological and physical manifestations (pathophysiology), causes, and treatment.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that’s more directly related with a person’s age. The primary pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease observes nerve cell deterioration, which is demonstrated as an increased loss of coherence and a progressive loss of ability to conduct normal activities of daily living.
From a biochemical perspective, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the lack of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter in both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS). Anatomically, portions of the brain such as the temporal lobe, parietal lobe, and frontal cortex are affected.
- Worsened ability to remember new information.
- Impairments to reading, complex tasking and exercising judgments.
- Impaired visio-spatial abilities.
- Changes in personality and behavior.
- Impaired speaking and writing.
- There is little known treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, though research indicates that acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors can slow the progression of the disease once a positive diagnosis has been established. Studies for prevention suggest that performing simple mental exercises such as reading and maintaining regular mentally stimulating activity reduces the chance of acquiring the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and is caused by a prolonged decrease of dopamine, the absence of which inhibits normal neural impulses in the brain. Over time, extrapyramidal movements such as tremors, an inability to swallow, stuttered speech, impaired or involuntary body movements, and akinesia’”muscle rigidity affecting the muscles in the face are demonstrated. During the latter part of the disease, mental deterioration occurs.
Parkinson’s disease can be traced to gender and genetics, as most people afflicted are men who have a family history of the disease. It has also been determined that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by consecutive concussions, as in the case of the former heavyweight boxing champion, Mohammed Ali.
- Decreased facial expression, decreased eye blinking and monotonous speech.
- Unsteady balance, difficulty rising from a sitting position.
- Abnormal tone or stiffness in the trunk.
- Slowness of voluntary movements.
- Hand tremors.
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease involves dopamine precursors and agonists to increase the presence of dopamine. Another surgical technique creates lesions in the thalamus of the brain. These are the parts of the brain that is involved in Parkinson’s disease. This has now been replaced by deep brain stimulation (DBS). In this procedure, a wire is placed deep inside the brain in a specific location depending on the symptoms that need to be treated. DBS can provide dramatic improvements in people and is highly successful therapy for both tremor and rigidity. It is very important to maintain a daily exercise program and to remain socially active. In many Parkinson’s patients, a weakening of social ties because of physical difficulties can lead to depression.
People suffering from mental disorder, be it Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, need our love and support for fighting the battle. It is not an easy battle, but when it comes to a loved one, it is a battle worth fighting for.