Although half a million Americans are currently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates the real number of Americans living with Parkinson’s disorder is likely closer to one million.
Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you’re probably knee-deep in resources trying to learn more about the condition. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding Parkinson’s disease, so how do you separate the myths from the facts? The team of neurology specialists here at Link Neuroscience Institute is always happy to answer your questions, recommend lifestyle modifications, and explain your treatment options in great detail.
In the meantime, let’s debunk some common misconceptions.
Myth #1: Only the elderly get Parkinson’s disease
Fact: While Parkinson’s disease is more commonly diagnosed in adults over the age of 50, it can affect people of any age. Young-onset Parkinson’s can strike people in their 30s or 40s, and even younger cases have been reported, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Young-onset Parkinson’s progresses slower but can cause more dystonia (abnormal postures such as foot arching) and more dyskinesia (involuntary movements). Regardless of age, if you notice any warning signs of Parkinson’s disease, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Myth #2: Parkinson’s disease is always characterized by tremors
Fact: Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder primarily affecting movement control. It’s characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a region of your brain called the substantia nigra. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for transmitting signals that regulate muscle movement, so many people associate this condition with tremors and involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or face.
Besides tremors, Parkinson’s disease can also contribute to:
- Bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
- Muscle rigidity, stiffness, and resistance
- Postural instability and balance issues
Other common symptoms may include changes in speech, writing difficulties, decreased facial expression (reduced facial animation, known as “masked face”), and micrographia (small, cramped handwriting).
As the disease progresses, non-motor symptoms like depression, anxiety, cognitive changes, sleep disturbances, and autonomic dysfunction (problems with blood pressure, digestion, and other bodily functions) can also develop. As many as 50% of people with Parkinson’s disease develop depression.
Myth #3: Parkinson’s disease isn’t treatable
Fact: While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, numerous treatments are available to manage its symptoms. Medications, physical therapy, and deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery are just a few options that can significantly improve your quality of life.
You may also find that assistive tools help with daily tasks such as eating, wearing button shirts, and brushing teeth.
Myth #4: Parkinson’s disease affects only motor function
Fact: Parkinson’s can impact more than just your physical abilities. It can also affect mood, cognitive function, and autonomic functions like blood pressure regulation and digestion.
Parkinson’s disease can also contribute to profound cognitive impairment. About 30% of people who have Parkinson’s disease develop mild brain cognitive impairment after five years, and about 75% of people who have Parkinson’s disease for at least 10 years will develop dementia.
Myth #5: Parkinson’s disease isn’t fatal
Fact: Parkinson’s disease itself is not typically fatal, but complications related to the condition, such as pneumonia or falls, can be life-threatening. If you or a loved one have Parkinson’s, incorporate fall prevention strategies into your daily routine.
How Link Neuroscience Institute can help
At Link Neuroscience Institute, our team of expert neurologists understands the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing cutting-edge care and support for individuals with Parkinson’s. From accurate diagnosis to personalized treatment plans, we’re here to help you or your loved one navigate the journey with Parkinson’s disease.
Contact us today at either our Oxnard or Santa Barbara, California, location to learn more about our comprehensive services and how we can assist you in managing this condition effectively.