Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome

Parkinson's Plus Syndromes

Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome (PPS) is a group of neurodegenerative disorders that share some similarities with Parkinson’s disease but also have unique characteristics that set them apart. Like Parkinson’s disease, this group of movement disorders is linked to the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling muscle movement, and producing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine carries signals from the brain around the body, so, a lack of dopamine production leads to an impairment in muscle control and movement.

According to statistics, about 15 percent of Parkinson’s diagnosis will also have one of the Parkinson’s plus syndromes. But, because the symptoms associated with Parkinson Plus conditions tend to mimic other conditions, it is often difficult to diagnose.

However, unlike Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s Plus syndromes can be differentiated by their tendency to focus more on one particular symptom, rather than a combination of multiple symptoms. There are four primary conditions known as Parkinson’s plus syndromes, namely Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), is a common form of progressive dementia, and many experts believe that LBD may, in fact, be a form of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s Disease. LBD causes abnormal bodies, known as Lewy bodies, to build up in specific parts of the brain. These blockages cause symptoms that are very similar to Parkinson’s such as tremor, problems with movement and a shuffling gait. But, also, cause symptoms closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease such as extreme memory loss and difficulties with cognition, alertness, and attention.

Although there is no cure for LBD, medications have been known to help reduce the symptoms.

Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD), is a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes parts of the brain to shrink over time. The most common symptoms associated with CBD are memory loss, difficulty speaking and focusing, tremor, stiff movements, myoclonus, and an inability to control muscle movements to complete simple, familiar tasks such as drinking or eating. Unlike Parkinson’s disease, a fundamental difference with CBD is the progressive loss of the ability to understand written or spoken language. There is no known cure for CBD. However, some medications can help to manage the symptoms, and improve day to day life.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), is a rare neurodegenerative disease that typically manifests as difficulty with balance and coordinated movement such as walking or standing. The symptom that is most prevalent in PSP, setting it apart from Parkinson’s, is an inability to control eye movements. Individuals with this condition find aiming their eyes difficult, especially when looking down, so are unable to guide their gaze or focus on any particular item. Problems with swallowing tend to be worse in PSP than with other neurodegenerative diseases, and tremors are very rare. Depression is also most prevalent in individuals who suffer from this condition, but some antidepressant medications, as well as antiparkinsons medications, are known to help manage these symptoms.

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), is a progressive condition of the nervous system. It is a combination of three related disorders – Olivopontocerebellar atrophy, which interferes with coordination, speech and balance. Striatonigral degeneration, which causes problems with movement and often manifests as stiffness in the muscles. And, Shy-Drager disease which causes difficulties with the automatic nervous system and interferes with automatic body functions such as blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and digestion. There is no effective medication known to date that can effectively stop the degeneration of nerves that occurs with this condition. However, some prescription medications can help to manage the symptoms.
Conditions that fall under the PPS category are complex and life-changing. And, while there are no known cures for the various disorders that fall under this label, a regular exercise routine that focuses on retaining muscle strength when combined with occupational therapy, speech therapy, and medications, has been known to help with the management of symptoms.

PPS can take some time to manifest and can mimic many other neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. As a result, this can make accurate diagnosis a challenge. At MDPDS, our team of Movement Disorder Specialists is trained to diagnose these types of neurological and neurodegenerative conditions. We know that not every medication or treatment care program is one-size-fits-all. As such, we work closely with you to not only uncover the symptoms, and ensure diagnostic clarity, but also design a care package that fits your individual needs.

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