What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. and 6 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease, according to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 

Just what is Parkinson’s disease, exactly? It’s a disorder that affects your nervous system and your movement. The actual cause of Parkinson’s disease isn’t well-known, but researchers believe that genes and environmental triggers can play a role. Parkinson’s disease is more common over the age of 60, and it’s also more common in men.

Here are a few of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms often happen on one side of the body and stay worse on that side. Note that symptoms can differ for everyone, and initial symptoms may be so mild that you won’t notice them:

  • A tremor or shaking that frequently begins in your hand or fingers.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Posture that may become stooped.
  • A slowing in the way you move. “Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Changes in speech. This could include speaking more softly, quickly, or hesitating before talking.
  • Changes in writing.
  • Less ability to perform unconscious movements such as blinking or smiling.

People living with Parkinson’s disease often require special care, especially as their symptoms worsen. This is due to the symptoms mentioned above that make it harder to do daily tasks. It’s also because Parkinson’s disease may cause difficulties in thinking, including dementia—particularly in the later stages. Other health issues caused by Parkinson’s disease include depression and mood changes, swallowing disorders, bladder problems, and fatigue.

Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure, but there are medications to help the symptoms.

Some patients require surgery. Healthier living choices such as regular aerobic exercise, better sleep, and a healthier diet all are recommended to help Parkinson’s disease. Massage, physical therapy, tai chi, and yoga also may be helpful, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

People don’t die from Parkinson’s disease. However, they may die from incidents related to the disease, such as a fall or a blood clot. 

Next month, we share some tips to help caregivers of people with Parkinson’s disease.

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