Although Parkinson’s is relatively common, with one in every 100 people over the age of 60 being affected, many people, sometimes even those diagnosed with the condition, hold false beliefs and misconceptions about Parkinson’s and Parkinson’s treatments. Below are some important, yet little-known, facts about Parkinson’s which may offer patients and their families some much-needed information.
- If you don’t have a tremor, it can’t be Parkinson's. In fact, some patients don’t have any tremor. Parkinson’s causes many different symptoms other than tremor, such as rigidity or trouble walking, as well as non-motor symptoms like mood disorders, concentration problems, and even digestive symptoms. It is important to recognize the different possible symptoms of Parkinson’s and to discuss them with your doctor if they occur, so that you can address them together. In addition, understanding that Parkinson’s is much more than a tremor can promote a more supportive and helpful environment for patients.
- Parkinson’s disease is a fatal illness. According to research, on average, people with Parkinson's can expect to live nearly as long as those who don't have the disorder.
- Life with Parkinson’s is miserable. Recent medical advances and increased awareness of the potential benefit of adopting an active and healthy lifestyle, offer doctors and patients new hope for improved quality of life. By tailoring a treatment plan to every patient, doctors can help their patients live a full, fulfilling, and enjoyable life with Parkinson’s.
- Parkinson’s medications make the condition progress faster. A common belief is that, over time, symptoms get worse because of the medications, with the brain becoming dependent on these medications and accelerating the process of dopamine producing cell loss. Research has shown that this is not the case. The theory that levodopa may be toxic has also been disproven.
- Levodopa stops working after 5 years. The discovery of levodopa (L-DOPA) revolutionized the treatment of people with Parkinson’s. People who had previously been completely immobile simply rose from their wheelchairs and started walking (as described by Oliver Sacks in his book, Awakenings). Some people experience side effects from L-DOPA; others whose dose remains constant over the years may feel that their symptoms worsen as the disease progresses. This is why, over time, you will typically need to take an increasing number of pills.
- Apart from medications, nothing else helps. Believing that you cannot help yourself leads to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness which in turn results in poorer health outcomes. A growing body of literature shows that exercise, dance, a healthy diet, meditation, and more lifestyle interventions can significantly improve function, mood, cognition, and quality of life. The earlier these healthy activities are adopted the more likely they are to help.
Did You Know?
- Parkinson’s was named after Dr. James Parkinson, a British physician who first described the disorder over 200 years ago.
- Parkinson’s can begin in early adulthood. Around 10% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s are aged 40 or less.
- There is no known cure for Parkinson’s, but there are several effective treatments to help manage symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.
- People with Parkinson’s may become more creative than before and even discover or develop new skills and passions.
- In moments of stress or in an emergency, such as when the fire alarm goes off and a building needs to be evacuated, people with severe Parkinson’s may be able to walk or even run almost normally.
- Small handwriting and loss of smell are early signs of Parkinson’s.
- Exercise helps manage Parkinson’s symptoms.
- No two people have the exact same symptoms.