Parkinson's Disease Awareness
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Guest Blog: Supporting Parkinson’s Disease Awareness

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Parkinson’s Disease is one of many causes you can support on GiveGab, and because April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, we’ve published this guest blog article authored by Rebecca Evans, a Geriatric Nurse, to help promote awareness around this disease.

Please share the infographic provided at the end of this article to help increase awareness.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease

Let’s take a few moments to examine two different movement disorders that can be readily confusing to many people, including physicians.

Parkinson’s disease is not easily diagnosed, and part of the difficulty in diagnosing it is its similarities to several other diseases, one of which is tardive dyskinesia.

Let’s take some time to explore both diseases, so we can see how they are each similar and different.

Similarities Differences
Tardive dyskinesia Parkinson’s disease
Movement disorders Rarely congenital Sometimes congenital
Related to dopamine deficiency May have difficulty staying still May have difficulty moving
Can be medication related Frequently caused by drug use But infrequently caused by drug use

Let’s look a bit more closely at the table above.

Similarities

It’s easiest to look at the ways in which tardive dyskinesia and Parkinson’s disease are similar, and how they might be confused. Both are movement disorders, and both are related to dopamine deficiency. Both can also be the result of various medications.

Dopamine is key to both conditions.

Dopamine works in the brain on five different types of dopamine receptors, and though dopamine is available as a medication, intravenous dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. What this means is that intravenous dopamine can affect the sympathetic nervous system (and thus increase heart rate and blood pressure, which are some of the most common uses for it as a medication), but not the central nervous system.

Inside the brain, dopamine is at the center of the brain’s reward and enjoyment center and can be responsible for increasing motivation, excitement, and even joy. Dopamine is naturally released by the things that make us happy—food, love, sexual activity, even drugs. (For instance, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines all increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is one of the reasons they are so addictive).  

This is important because it gets at why certain medications may cause tardive dyskinesia and Parkinson’s (or at the very least, conditions that mimic Parkinson’s disease). Certain mental health treatment medications block receptors and are known as dopamine antagonists. As a result, however, the body may, in turn, produce insufficient amounts of dopamine, or the body may not be able to read the dopamine produced, which can result in symptoms that mirror those of Parkinson’s or can result in tardive dyskinesia.

And treatment for both diseases may even be similar—but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

Differences

Tardive dyskinesia may look like Parkinson’s to the unfamiliar eye, but the two are actually very different, as are the causes. For starters, Parkinson’s is congenital. Tardive dyskinesia is frequently linked to drug abuse.

Similarly, the movement disturbances of each disease are a bit different. Individuals with tardive dyskinesia may have great trouble staying still, and though the movements can look a bit like the spasms associated with Parkinson’s, they tend to be more fluid and less jerky. In particular, common tardive dyskinesia symptoms include facial tics such as rapid blinking or repeated grimacing, or other twitchy tic-like movements, such as restless legs (toe tapping is common), finger fluttering, and more.

Parkinson’s, on the other hand, tends to appear less fluid, and tremors accompany extreme stiffness, including impaired speech, difficulty swallowing, and struggles to control their movements. Similarly, TD symptoms may disappear when a patient is relaxed and get worse when a patient is stressed; Parkinson’s symptoms tend to be less variable (though they can be exacerbated by stress).

And while certain psychedelic or antipsychotic drugs may cause effects that mirror Parkinson’s, it most often is the result of a genetic predisposition. That isn’t the case with tardive dyskinesia, which is frequently associated with drug abuse or a reaction to a drug.

Treatment

Treatment for both diseases, however, may be similar, even if neither disease is considered curable. Tardive dyskinesia, for instance, has actually been known in certain cases to go into spontaneous remission when it is caused by a particular drug if a patient stops taking that drug, especially if the patient has just begun taking that problematic drug.

In most cases, however, the prescription for both diseases is pharmaceuticals designed to make dopamine work better in the body, such as Levodopa, as well as methods for managing symptoms.

You can help increase awareness by sharing this great infographic and consider supporting a nonprofit that works toward this important mission on GiveGab.

Parkinson's Disease Awareness