Posted on Apr 24, 2020, 3 p.m.
For many people living with Parkinson’s disease is a reality. April is Parkinson’s disease awareness month, we’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that this disease may be affecting your loved ones, friends, or acquaintances.
Although the onset of symptoms is most prevalent in those 60 or older it can strike sooner, such as Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with early onset when he was only 29 years old. For many they are not able to continue with the activities that they have previously enjoyed, depending on the level of the disease to the point where they require assistance for daily tasks.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disease that involves malfunction and death of vital substantia nigra brain nerve cells, some of which produce dopamine that sends messages to parts of the brain controlling movement and coordination. In American there are 60,000 people diagnosed with this disease annually adding to the some million people living with Parkinson’s disease.
Early signs of Parkinson’s disease include but are not limited to:
- Small handwriting looking cramped, individual letters appearing to be smaller than normal and words spaced closely together, and writing itself may become hard to do.
- Tremors are the most recognizable sign: slight twitching or shaking of a finger, hand or foot that in the early stages the patient is likely to be the only one to notice until the shaking worsens as the condition progresses. Tremors are typically most noticeable while at rest.
- Tossing, turning, and uncontrollable movements have new meaning when it comes to this disease, meaning getting enough sleep can be an issue.
- Stiffness of the limbs and slow movement are symptoms caused by the impairment of the neurons that control movement. Those with this disease have jerkier motions, move in a more uncoordinated pattern and may develop a shuffling gait.
- In early onset enunciation may remain clear but changes in your voice may lead to speaking in low tones, a hoarse voice, slurring, hesitations, or with little inflection.
- Those with this disease often have a blank stare due to movements and control of the small muscles in the face becoming difficult, patients will often blink less often as well.
- At first posture will change in small ways as the wide and uncontrolled involuntary movement does not occur right away. Stooped postures, leaning and slouching can be an early indicator, this posture has to do with the loss of coordination and balance affecting the entire body.
This is a serious and chronic condition and treatment is more successful if the disease is caught in early stages, but diagnosis can be difficult as many of the signs are similar to other health conditions. Please be sure to talk to your physician if you have any concerns about your physical movements, behavior, or if something just doesn’t feel right.
Although there is no known cure, research indicates that exercise programs can help to improve confidence, balance and quality of life, as well as reduce fall rates for those with Parkinson’s disease when done on a regular basis. The exercise program needs to be done on a regular basis as a lifelong habit because these benefits will fade away once the exercise program has been stopped.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.