Bringing Awareness to Something You’d Just as Soon Forget

Some  people think Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder and they would be correct. Others would say it is a disease that affects more than movement and they would be right. Some say it starts with a tremor and that is likely. Some say it starts with stiffness and that is a possibility but did you know the first symptom that is often overlooked and undertreated is depression?

April is Parkinson’s Awareness month and with that comes a responsibility to make aware the effects of this disease to the community at large by those affected by it. If people wtih Parkinson’s disease (PD) or people who know someone with PD don’t bring an awareness to this debilitating disease, no one else will. If it’s not important to make known the importance of finding a cure with those affected by PD, it won’t be important to anyone else.

PD can take many forms. It can begin with depression, as stated above, include tremors, dystonia (a cramping and tightening of the fingers, feet, neck, and/or other parts of the body. The Parkinson’s patient can experience dyskenesia – involuntary flailing about movements. These are the signs/symptoms that most people generally associate this diease with, but that is becasuse these are the symptoms of having Parkinson’s that are visible. Other signs that are not as commonly known and have been associated with having Parkinson’s disease include losing the ability to smell, uncontrolled drooling, a softening of the voice, walking as if you are dragging your foot, a shuffled walk, tripping/falling, and more.

Parkinson’s disease is also known as an invisible diease becasuse there are many other symptoms that are found with having PD. Along with the visible signs, the invisible signs take just as strong a toll on the body, both physcially and mentally. These invisible signs can include severe back and neck pain, migraine-like headaches, a tightening of the muscles, a change in handwriting quality, an expressionless face, and also depression, as mentioned above.

Someone can have all the symptoms associated with PD, some of the symptoms, and/or some sympotms can change or disappear. PD mimicks so many other diseases, such as Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis that it often makes it difficult to properly diagnose and often takes a neurologist who speciaizes in movement disorders to make a correct diagnosis. This is especially true with people who are experiencing symptoms at an age uncommon to those riddled with PD (the elderly).  This age group of people – those who are diagnosed under the age of 60 – are known as patients with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) and the number of those being diagnosed with YOPD is increasing daily. What was once known as an “old people’s disease” is becoming more common with those under the age of 50.

There are several organizations with resources readily available for the asking. These include the Michael J Fox Foundation (michaeljfox.org), the Natioinal Pakrinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org), and the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (apdaparkinson.org). In Oregon, the Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon (parkinsonsresources.org) is available to answer quesitons regarding PD and also has much informatioin available to the public as well.

PD doesn’t play favorites. It does not take age into account, gender, or race. It can affect anyone, at any time. It can advance quickly or it can progress slowly. The cause and the cure is still unknown, which is why bringing awareness to this disease is so important. If I (now 55 and having had PD for 24 years) don’t think it important in bringing awareness to this debilitating disease, I can’t expect anyone else to think it important.

Journeying with you,

Sherri

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