According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people are living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the United States alone, and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year. Every April, the foundation sponsors Parkinson’s Awareness Month to educate the community about the disease and how those diagnosed with it can improve their lives. This year’s theme is #Plan4PD, and the foundation is encouraging people to take actionable steps and share ways that help improve their everyday lives if they’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Preparedness, especially in the age of COVID-19, is more important than ever.
What Is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years and may include:,
- Bradykinesia (slow movement)
- Limb rigidity
- Gait and balance problems
The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, complications from the disease can be serious.
What are the early warning signs?
No single one of these signs means that you should worry, but if you have more than one sign you should consider making an appointment to talk to your doctor:
- Tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin. A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson’s.
- Small handwriting. You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together.
- Loss of smell. If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s.
- Trouble sleeping. Thrashing around or making sudden movements while sleeping can be a sign of Parkinson’s.
- Trouble moving or walking. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.”
- Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson’s.
- A soft or low voice. If other people have told you that your voice is very soft or that you sound hoarse, you should ask your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson’s.
- “Masked face.” Having a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood, is often called facial masking and can be a warning sign.
- Dizziness or fainting. Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s.
- Stooping or hunching over. If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign.
What can you do if you’re diagnosed with PD?
The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends the following tips:
- Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include:
- A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain
- Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist
- Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life
- Start a regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.
- Talk with family and friends who can provide you with the support you need.
- Check out the Awareness Month calendar for more ideas and advice.
Kadan caregivers are experienced in working with clients with Parkinson’s disease. To learn more about how we might help you or a loved one, please call us at 770-396-8997.