5 Myths About Parkinson’s Disease
Every year, approximately 60,000 people in the United States receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The incidence of this brain disorder increases with age.
However, 4% of individuals develop Parkinson’s disease before the age of 50.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder, which means that the symptoms, which include shaking, difficulty walking, stiffness, and problems with balance and coordination, worsen over the years.
The majority of people who come to struggle with Parkinson’s disease will first notice a slight tremor in one of their hands.
Furthermore, in the early stage of the disorder, people may experience the following symptoms:
It is worthy of note that people experience the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease differently, and, as a consequence, no two individuals with the disorder will have the same symptoms. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but it can be kept under control with the right medication, such as levodopa and carbidopa, and also with alternative therapies.
Therefore, people who suffer from this brain disorder can often have a good quality of life. While Parkinson’s disease occurs in 1 in 500 people and there is plenty of information concerning it circulating around, it is important to distinguish the facts from the myths. To raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and to provide accurate and factual information about this brain disorder, we have debunked five common myths about it.
1. People with Parkinson’s Disease Only Have Their Motor Skills Affected
Although the medical community deems Parkinson’s disease a motor disorder, it is essential to keep in mind that the majority of people who are going to develop it will first experience non-motor symptoms, such as cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety, dementia, apathy, bowel incontinence, pain, and sexual dysfunction.
People and the medical community should not overlook these symptoms, as they significantly contribute to severe disability, poor quality of life, and a short life expectancy. A sliver of hope is that most non-motor skills experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease are treatable.
2. Medication Can Worsen Symptoms
This myth concerns levodopa in particular, as it was wrongly thought that taking this medication for Parkinson’s disease may actually exacerbate the symptoms patients experience in the long run. While it is true that this medication can cause additional motor symptoms, such as dyskinesia, which refers to involuntarily jerky movements, the onset of this symptom is the result of the underlying brain disorder and not of the medication itself.
While in the past, medical professionals would recommend levodopa only to people with advanced Parkinson's disease, today, anyone can benefit from this medication, regardless of the phase of their disorder.
3. People with Parkinson’s Disease Experience Spontaneous Exacerbations
Another common myth about Parkinson’s disease is that people who suffer from it often have exacerbations of their symptoms. The truth is that, even if symptoms can fluctuate throughout the day, the progression of this brain disorder is, in fact, very slow and does not entail flare-ups.
For this reason, if you notice a worsening in the symptoms of a person with Parkinson’s disease, it is crucial for you to take them to a medical specialist who will look for underlying causes. Some underlying causes for symptoms exacerbations in patients with Parkinson’s disease are certain medications such as antipsychotics, valproic acid, and lithium, sleep deprivation, stress, urinary tract infections, and dehydration.
4. The Only Effective Way to Keep Parkinson’s Disease Under Control Is Medication
This could not be further from the truth. While taking your medication is crucial in keeping your Parkinson’s disease symptoms under control, you can partake in numerous other activities meant to alleviate your symptoms and enhance your life quality. For instance, a recent medical study found that people with this brain disorder who engaged in weekly, hourlong exercise sessions could function considerably better in their daily life than those who did not.
In addition to physical activity, there are plenty of other alternative remedies you may want to try if you struggle with Parkinson’s disease, such as taking nutritional supplements, but only with the approval of your doctor, practicing tai chi or yoga, going to massage sessions or acupuncture.
5. Having Parkinson’s Disease Is a Death Sentence
By virtue of the advance in medical technology and the emergence of new, effective treatments, numerous people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease can enjoy a relatively normal and happy life. It is important to know that what usually results in the death of individuals with this brain disorder is not Parkinson’s disease itself but the health complications and injuries that stem from it, such as fractures and infections.
However, with the constant supervision of a competent medical team, as well as with regular exercise and physical therapy, you can avoid these and may even exceed the average life expectancy of people with Parkinson’s disease, which ranges between 10 and 20 years following diagnosis.
Undoubtedly, struggling with Parkinson’s disease, regardless of the treatment options available, is not easy, and, ideally, people with this brain disorder should have a strong support system. The involvement of both medical professionals and family members is essential for increasing the quality of life of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Last but not least, Parkinson’s disease patients should try to maintain a positive attitude and be as active as possible despite the bothersome symptoms they experience, as we cannot stress enough the importance of being physically active if you have this brain disorder.