April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of the facts on this chronic and degenerative disease as well as dispel some misunderstandings. About a million people currently live with Parkinson’s in the United States and another 6 to 9 million people throughout the rest of the world also manifest the condition.
- While the one million may not seem like such a large number, it is more than all of the people who manifest muscular sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) combined.
- Parkinson’s is most noted for its movement disorders, but as a degenerative disease, it can start out almost undetected as gastrointestinal, olfactory or sleep issues.
- Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women. The relative incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but about four percent of cases annually reported are among patients under the age of 50. Michael J Fox may be the most noted example of a young Parkinson’s patient having been diagnosed when he was only 30 years old.
- The overwhelming number of Parkinson’s cases are not genetically linked, but there is a slightly greater percentage – about four to nine percent greater – of Parkinson’s patients who have had Parkinson’s in their families.
- While the movement disorders that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s are quite stark, there really is no standard test to diagnose the disease. Neurologists who are trained in movement disorders typically start by ruling out other conditions before coming to a diagnosis of PD.
- There is no cure for Parkinson’s but there are a number of medical treatments that help replace the dopamine the brain is no longer making as neurons die off as well as address the more severe of the stiffness or other movement disorders.
- There has been a good deal of funding for research into Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders, but there is not yet a cure. Sadly, the limiting factor to finding more effective treatments or a cure is that there are not enough patients volunteering for the clinical trials required to test these new options. To learn of the trial opportunities, go to: www.PDtrials.org. To learn what you can do to help the cause, go to: www.pdf.org/en/clinical_trial_inv.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.