CBD for Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. It primarily affects dopamine-producing neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over the course of multiple years, and they tend to differ from person to person.
People with Parkinson’s typically start experiencing symptoms in the later stages of the disease—after a significant number of neurons have been damaged or lost. Because symptoms often differ from one person to the next, not all of the symptoms listed below are necessary for a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Younger people in particular may only exhibit one or two of these symptoms, especially in the earlier stages of the disease. While a variety of other symptoms may occur, the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
Tremors. Not everyone with Parkinson’s has a tremor, and it’s certainly not proof of the disease—but it is a common symptom. Tremors tend to occur at rest, and they are usually slow and rhythmic, occurring first in the hand, foot, leg, jaw, chin, mouth, or tongue—and eventually spreading across the body. Some people also experience the sensation of internal tremors, which are not necessarily visible to others.
Rigidity. This symptom may be misdiagnosed as arthritis or orthopedic injury—especially in the earlier stages of the disease. It includes tightness or stiffness of the limbs or torso.
Bradykinesia. Bradykinesia, or “slow movement,” is typically exhibited in Parkinson’s patients through a general slowness of movement and a reduced or mask-like expression of the face. This can cause patients to blink less frequently, as well as experience difficulties with fine motor coordination.
Postural instability. More pronounced in the later stages of the disease, this symptom causes an inability to maintain a steady, upright posture, or to prevent a fall.
Walking or gait difficulties. Many of the above symptoms contribute to walking or gait difficulties in Parkinson’s patients. What may begin as a small change in the way the arm swings while walking can evolve into a slow, small, shuffling gait, rapid small steps, or freezing episodes—in which the feet appear to be glued to the floor.
While they are less noticeable—and often overlooked due to the disease being a type of movement disorder—there are also many associated non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Disturbances in the sense of smell, eye and vision issues, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, pain, psychosis, fatigue, cognitive changes, weight loss, lightheadedness, sweating, melanoma, personality changes, and gastrointestinal, urinary, and sexual issues can all occur in patients of Parkinson’s disease.
The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown—and there may not be one single cause at all. There is evidence that the following factors, in combination with each other, may cause Parkinson’s disease in most people who have it:
Genetics. It’s estimated that less than 10% of Parkinson’s cases are primarily caused by genetic factors. However, there are genetic effects—the most common being a mutation in the LRRK2 gene—that can trigger Parkinson’s disease. This is most common in families of North African or Jewish descent. Still, in the vast majority of cases, there is no traceable genetic cause.
Environment. Certain environmental factors, such as a significant exposure to pesticides or certain heavy metals, or repeated head injuries, can increase the risk of Parkinson’s. In most cases, however, there is no clear environmental cause for Parkinson’s. If there is one, it can take years for symptoms to develop after the event—making the connection particularly difficult to draw.
Other risk factors. There are various other factors that can increase an individual’s risk of developing Parkinson’s. Age (most Parkinson’s patients are over the age of 50), sex (men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women), and race (Parkinson’s seems to affect Caucasians more than African Americans or Asians) can all play a part, although these factors are not yet completely understood.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Due to the fact that symptoms don’t exhibit themselves until the later stages of the disease, early diagnosis is difficult—but scientists continue to search for ways to identify the early onset of Parkinson’s. While no treatment options currently available can slow or halt the progress of Parkinson’s disease, there are treatments available to improve its symptoms:
Medication. Almost all Parkinson’s patients will eventually require medication to treat their motor symptoms. Several classes of medications are available, and often patients will be prescribed various strengths, formulations, and combinations of medications to improve their symptoms.
Surgery. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may improve symptoms in certain patients.
Physical, occupational, and speech therapies. These forms of therapy can help with walking and gait issues, fine motor skills, and speech and language issues that may arise with Parkinson’s disease.
Lifestyle changes. A healthy diet and proper exercise program can help maximize the potential of medications, increase energy, and promote general health and well-being in Parkinson’s patients. CBD oil has been shown to reduce symptoms of pain and inflammation, and an older, smaller, but nonetheless promising study suggests that CBD may also be able to ease tremors in Parkinson’s patients.
By 2020, nearly 1 million people will be living with Parkinson's disease in the U.S. If you notice any symptoms or early signs of Parkinson’s in yourself or a loved one, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment.