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Can a Stroke Cause Vascular Parkinsonism

Vascular Parkinsonism, although quite similar, is not the same as Parkinson’s disease. Vascular Parkinsonism disease is just what its name suggests: a medical condition directly related to the vascular system and similar to Parkinson’s disease. Let us examine whether a stroke can cause this condition, what this disease is, what symptoms it entails, and what possible treatments can cure vascular Parkinsonism.

What is Vascular Parkinsonism?

Vascular Parkinsonism is a medical condition where areas of the brain involved in movement control get damaged due to small strokes. Vascular Parkinsonism can be diagnosed through brain imaging and symptom evaluation. It is typical for brain imaging to reveal a history of small strokes previously unknown to the patient. The damage caused by these minor strokes dates back to a period of several years. Vascular Parkinsonism is one of the several kinds of Parkinsonism, some of which include multiple system atrophy, drug-induced Parkinsonism, normal pressure hydrocephalus, and progressive supranuclear palsy.

What is secondary Parkinsonism?

Secondary Parkinsonism is a medical condition similar to Parkinson’s disease but is caused by different nervous system disorders, other illnesses, or certain medicines. It may be caused by medical conditions including diffuse Lewy body disease, HIV or AIDS, Encephalitis, Wilson’s disease, stroke, meningitis, injury to the brain, multiple system atrophy, or progressive supranuclear palsy. Some other causes may include anesthesia drugs, medications used to treat nausea or mental disorders, an overdose of narcotics, MPTP, carbon monoxide poisoning, mercury poisoning, or any other chemical poisoning. 

Vascular Parkinsonism caused by stroke

Vascular Parkinsonism is a stroke that involves the substantia nigra or basal ganglia and is primarily caused by a hampered blood supply to the brain, similar to other strokes. The strokes that typically serve as triggers for vascular Parkinsonism are known as small vessel strokes, as they usually aren’t catastrophic. Because of their minuteness, several small vessel strokes result in symptoms of vascular Parkinsonism. Such strokes can also contribute to vascular dementia, as a majority of individuals suffering from vascular Parkinsonism also exhibit signs of vascular dementia. Such small vessel strokes can be diagnosed or confirmed via diagnostic tests of the brain such as MRI or CT scans

What are the symptoms of vascular Parkinsonism?

A majority of the renowned symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are present in vascular Parkinsonism as well. However, symptoms in Parkinson’s disease tend to encapsulate the entire body but are typically concentrated in the lower body in the case of vascular Parkinsonism. Some major symptoms of vascular Parkinsonism include:

  1. Weak limbs

  2. Stiff and rigid muscle

  3. Impeded movement

  4. Difficulties in walking or maintaining balance

  5. Affected speech, reflexes, or cognition

Some individuals in the later course of the disease may also experience a resting tremor.

What causes vascular Parkinsonism?

Complications or disruption in blood vessels in the brain regions that control motor systems typically cause vascular Parkinsonism. A single stroke or a series of small strokes can also cause this disease, as they serve as a trigger for blood flow disruption to the deepest corners of the brain. Since strokes usually occur because one or more blood vessels in the brain restrict normal blood flow due to constriction, they can also increase the risk of vascular Parkinsonism. Major ischemic strokes can also contribute to vascular Parkinsonism. An individual suffering from minute silent stroke is also at a high risk of vascular Parkinsonism, as a blood clot may temporarily become lodged up in a brain artery and may or may not move along by breaking up. 

Other causes of vascular Parkinsonism may include:

  1. Arteriosclerosis: where arteries in the brain become thick and stiff because of the formation of fatty plaques within them.

  2. Atherosclerosis: a medical condition where a blood clot formed anywhere in the body of the brain breaks off and becomes lodged in a brain artery, thereby impeding blood supply to the brain.

Certain other risk factors for vascular Parkinsonism disease include

  1. Atrial fibrillation

  2. Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  3. Diabetes

  4. Any other arrhythmias

How can vascular Parkinsonism be treated?

Treating vascular Parkinsonism is a tricky endeavor because many patients do not show significant improvement with the use of medicines. The most commonly used medicines for this purpose include amantadine and L-dopa. However, research shows that a mere 30% of patients with vascular Parkinsonism respond constructively to L-dopa. Medicines for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease are sometimes, but not always, effective in maintaining the symptoms of vascular Parkinsonism.

Because of a lack of effective medications, physicians majorly focus on managing symptoms to impede disease progression. This usually means maintaining cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure within normal ranges and adopting a healthy and active lifestyle. Physical therapy to sustain motor issues such as balance and walking and occupational therapy for everyday functions and necessary activities may also prove effective. 

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