El misterio del Parkinson

JOHANESBURGO – La enfermedad de Parkinson es un trastorno neurológico degenerativo que afecta a aproximadamente siete millones de personas en todo el mundo y a un millón en los Estados Unidos, generalmente mayores de 50 años. La enfermedad afecta al 2% de las personas mayores de 65 años y entre el 5% y el 10% de los casos se presentan en personas menores de 50 años. Aún se desconocen las causas, lo que nos impide detener el desarrollo de la enfermedad, aunque investigaciones recientes apuntan a factores ambientales y ocupacionales.

En textos chinos e indios de 1000 AC se describe un trastorno similar, pero fue James Parkinson quien primero describió en detalle la enfermedad en 1817. Quienes empiezan a desarrollar la afección sufren de lentitud en los movimientos, temblores, rigidez, dificultad para caminar y paso inestable. A medida que la enfermedad progresa, puede afectar el pensamiento y provocar problemas psicológicos y de conducta, como la demencia, trastornos del sueño y depresión, así como baja presión sanguínea. Aunque muchos de estos síntomas pueden tratarse, la eficacia terapéutica a menudo disminuye con el paso del tiempo.

Los síntomas son resultado de la pérdida de las células cerebrales que generan la dopamina, un neurotransmisor. Muchos estudios muestran que la degeneración de estas células va precedida por la pérdida de células en otras regiones del cerebro, e incluso de células nerviosas en el sistema gastrointestinal. Esto ocurre décadas antes de que se desarrollen los trastornos motores.

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