Awareness about Parkinson’s Disease

CT examination in the process. Detail of CT scanner

It’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month! Here are Home we’ve put together some basic information about Parkinson’s Disease to raise awareness about what it is, what the risk factors are, and how to spot the warning signs.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease where the degradation of cells responsible for dopamine (a hormone which regulates signals between nerves in the body) occurs and it affects the central nervous system.
55,000 people in Canada are currently living with Parkinson’s disease. It occurs more frequently than other neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy combined. Knowing the risk, symptoms, and course of treatment can help you potentially spot it in yourself or a loved one.

Risk factors include:
• Age: As we age, our risk for developing Parkinson’s disease increases. Only four percent of individuals with Parkinson’s are under the age of 50.
• Sex: Males are slightly more at risk than females – they are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than females.
• Family History: Those with a family member with Parkinson’s are at a slightly higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, the majority of individuals with Parkinson’s disease are the first in their families to be diagnosed. Only 15-25% of cases have a family member with Parkinson’s.
• Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors can contribute to your overall risk of Parkinson’s disease, including herbicides, certain metals in high doses, and other chemicals. Having had a previous brain injury also increases your risk.

Currently Parkinson’s disease and its risk factors are still not yet well understood. As research continues, more is being discovered about the causes of the disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
• Tremor, sometimes beginning in hands
• Slowed Movement; Walking or doing every-day tasks may become more challenging
• Rigid Muscles, limiting the range of motion
• Speech and/or Writing Changes or Difficulty
• Loss of automatic movements including blinking, gesturing, or facial expressions
• Posture Changes; Stooping
• Impaired Balance

If you have any of the symptoms describe, please visit your doctor. These symptoms are characteristic of other conditions, and only a physician will be able to assess what kind of condition you may have.

Although Parkinson’s isn’t yet curable, there are medications and surgery that can significantly improve your symptoms. One can live with Parkinson’s for many years with the right oversight and medications. Another important part of managing your symptoms is fostering your physical and mental wellness. A good diet, mild exercise regime, getting involved with group activities, and seeing family can all be part of a balanced life with Parkinson’s.
Remember, although there is not yet a cure, new information about the disease is emerging. Additionally, managing your symptoms can be done with a good health team, lifestyle balance and support from loved ones.