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Parkinson’s Disease – Feet

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition of the central nervous system. It is characterised by a deficiency in the brain’s ability to release dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is used to control movement; otherwise known as motor function.

A 2011 report estimates the prevalence as 1 in 350 in Australia. It is a condition that typically affects those over 50, however cases of younger onset Parkinson’s disease are reportedly becoming more common.

Early stages of Parkinson’s disease can be detected through numerous signs. These may include reduced sense of smell, handwriting changes, a decrease in facial expression, walking with a smaller base of support and smaller step length, and single sided arm swing while walking. Reduced voice volume and drooling due to weakening of the muscles in the voice and face may present later on. General rigidity of the muscles, tremor, or repetitive trembling movements, and poor balance are all hallmarks of this condition.

Parkinson’s disease sufferers require assistance from a number of different healthcare professionals. Podiatrists are typically interested in walking patterns, footwear, and falls prevention.

The Parkinson’s disease walking pattern often includes periods of freezing, where the patient is unable to activate the correct muscles. This usually occurs when the patient is looking to take the first step, or when they need to turn. A festinating walking pattern is also often seen. They will take short, progressively more rapid steps, as though they are trying to catch up to the rest of their body.

Falls prevention in Parkinson’s disease

Falls prevention is a big concern in Parkinson’s disease.  Reflexes, balance, and motor control are all reduced and the loss of stability can increase the risk of falls. The persons surroundings – such as floor surfaces, furniture placement, and lighting need to be taken into account. Wearing supportive footwear is essential to provide a strong base of support. Check out our Perfect Shoe page for more details. Strengthening and exercise work is essential to maximise muscular flexibility and strength.