Parkinson’s Disease is a frightening and mysterious ailment that affects the nervous system, slowly eroding the ability to move and control movements. It typically manifests slowly in older age (average onset is in people over the age of 60) and generally has a very grim prognosis including dementia, loss of motor control, and the inability to communicate. What makes Parkinson’s so frightening to people is also the fact that although there are medications that can improve or alleviate symptoms for a time, eventually their efficacy is reduced and there is no long-term cure for the disease.
Although many people assume Parkinson’s is a genetic disease passed on to them by their parents, only a portion of all Parkinson’s cases are caused by family genes, with a large number of cases caused by environmental triggers such as pesticide exposure. Still, when people learn that a member of the family is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, it is easy to assume that they will eventually experience the disease, and this is when the serious short-term threat manifests: Paranoia.
Dealing with Family History
Although a strong family history of Parkinson’s Disease and related diseases is an indicator that descendants will be afflicted with the same disease, there is no direct link between an ancestor and a descendent when it comes to the disease. However, once the diagnosis of a relative is learned it is very common for people to rush to perform research on the topic, and then believe they are experiencing the onset of symptoms.
The difficulty is that many symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can easily be misinterpreted:
- Tremor. The tremor associated with Parkinson’s is very specific and recognisable by a doctor. Assuming that every twitch or involuntary movement is a Parkinson’s-specific tremor is a common mistake.
- Constipation/Gas. Difficulty going to the bathroom and excess gas are typical early signs of Parkinson’s. However, experiencing mild cases of either or both is not necessarily an indication.
- Insomnia. Parkinson’s typically causes bouts of insomnia and interrupted sleep patterns as changes in the brain disrupt the typical sleep cycle. However, as with constipation, insomnia is so prevalent and non-specific it is not useful as a precursor to Parkinson’s.
The best way for individuals who fear they may have Parkinson’s in their future to handle this information is communication on two fronts:
- Family. If Parkinson’s is a genetic trait being passed through your family, one of the best ways to deal with the possibility is to speak with relations who remember relatives who suffered from the disease as well as any living relatives who have been diagnosed. Parkinson’s is a slow-moving disease and often this can impress upon people that there will be no sudden descent into dementia and helplessness. It can also underscore that not everyone with a risk factor develops the disease.
- Doctors. Being referred to a Neurologist for a conversation accomplishes two things: It dispels rumours and offers real information and it beings a relationship that can become essential if symptoms do eventually appear. A consultation with a Neurologist can be one of the most beneficial steps an individual can take.
With a lack of a cure and only imperfect therapies, Parkinson’s is one of the most frightening possibilities for many people more frightening in some cases than cancer, due to the neurological component. However, fact-based information and clear communication can go a long way to calming fears about this terrible disease.
This advice comes from the team at Mobility Solutions, Scotland’s largest mobility store. They offer the latest in disability aids and vehicles and are regularly writing about ways to stay healthy.