April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF):
- As many as 1 million Americans live with Parkinson's disease (PD), which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease.
- Roughly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year.
- Approximately 4% of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50.
- Men are more likely to have Parkinson's than women.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease that affects the nervous system. Developing gradually, most people in the early stages of Parkinson’s won’t display more than a barely noticeable tremor in their hands. However, as the disease progresses, your body movements are more affected, leading to increased tremors/shaking, stiffness, slower movement, muscle rigidity, and possible speech changes, among others.
What Causes Parkinson's Disease?
According to the National Parkinson Foundation, the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. However, most experts agree that Parkinson's Disease may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
What are Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?
Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease include:
- Reduced/Slowed movement (also known as bradykinesia).
- Rigid muscles
- Impaired posture and balance
- Loss of automatic movements (ex: inability or difficulty blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk)
- Speech changes (ex: speaking softly, slurring or hesitation before talking)
- Difficulty writing (writing may become smaller, more difficult to perform
What Type of Treatment for Parkinson's is There?
There is no specific test used to diagnose Parkinson's. However, medications can help control and/or reduce some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Some of the commonly prescribed medications include:
- Carbidopa-levodopa. Levodopa, the most effective Parkinson's disease medication, is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine.
- Carbidopa-levodopa infusion. Known also as Duopa, this drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration in 2015. It is made up of carbidopa and levodopa and is administered through a feeding tube that delivers the medication directly to the small intestine.
- Dopamine agonists. This medication mimics the dopamine effects in your brain.
*In some of the more progressive cases of Parkinson’s Disease, surgery may be advised.
For more information about Parkinson's Disease, the following resources may be helpful: