Myths and facts about Parkinson’s Disease

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022

As I often do with some subjects, I want to state that I am not a doctor. The information provided in this article is the result of my research into the topic of Parkinson’s disease.

 

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that impacts a person’s movement. It is caused by the deterioration of brain cells that produce a substance called dopamine, and the results, which develop over time often starting with a slight tremor in one hand or a stiffness in movement.

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Myth 1: Parkinson’s Disease affects only gait. – While it’s true that a majority of the medical community considers Parkinson’s disease a motor disorder affecting gait, other symptoms can also appear including loss of coordination, changes in posture, a fixed facial expression, a reduced sense of smell, mood changes and sleep problems. As the disease progresses, some patients also develop non-motor symptoms such as dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease, depression, apathy, and sexual dysfunction, and for some, life expectancy is reduced.

 

Myth 2: Drug treatment with levodopa can only relieve symptoms for about five years. – Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, levodopa, which converts into dopamine once it enters the brain can be effective for decades, although its effectiveness over time might be reduced as the disease advances.

 

Myth: 3: Taking levodopa makes symptoms worse. – Levodopa can cause other motor symptoms such as dyskinesia, observed as “jerky” movements.  But it is the progress of the disease, not the drug that creates the onset of dyskinesia.

 

Myth 4: Having a tremor always indicates Parkinson’s disease. – Although tremor is the most well-known symptom of Parkinson’s they can also occur because of other conditions including familial or essential tremor. This is an involuntary, rhythmic muscle contraction leading to shaking movements in one or more parts of the body, usually the hands. Most of these types of tremors have no known cause, although, there are some forms that appear to be inherited and can occur in families, ergo “familial tremor.”

 

Myth 5: Only drugs can help. – People with Parkinson’s who start exercising earlier and do so for at least 2.5 hours a week experience a slowed decline in quality of life as compared with those who start later. Establishing early exercise habits is essential to overall management of the progression of the disease.

 

Common sense adjustments to the symptoms of the disease are required, such as taking steps to eliminate items in the home that may cause a fall, such as a throw rug or electrical cord across a floor, and use of a cane or walker to enhance stability.  But the good news in all this is that people with Parkinson’s can live long and fulfilling lives.

 

If you or a loved one have any concerns about a recent onset of a new persistent symptom that is not what you consider “normal,” please see a doctor. The earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the results and long-term outcome may be.

 

Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com.