The older you get the more illnesses and complaints appear in one’s life. That sounds scary and probably inevitable to you, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is one of the reasons we neglect the symptoms in the beginning and surrender without a fight, convinced that for millions of people around the world this disease is a fact and there is no cure. You are partially right as there may not be a universal cure yet. However, a large percentage of these same millions of people take care of themselves, alone or with the help of relatives or caregivers in order to improve their condition, to move and live a fulfilling life. It takes will and awareness that to overcome something, you should not be trapped in anticipation of the worst scenario. This is one of the missions of Blocks. On our entire campus of various services, we show our residents and patients what is on the other side, if the right care is taken with the right human attitude. Once they see progress for themselves, they understand how those millions live with a disease for which there is no cure.
Today we will tell you about Parkinson’s disease and especially about its symptoms. It is one of these diseases that affects a large percentage of the elderly. A disease that can cause a lot of harm, but which we live with, especially if we accept it as a part of us and most importantly – do not ignore its signs and symptoms.
Firstly, let’s start with who has Parkinson’s?
- Nearly 1 million people in America alone live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the total number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or amyotrophic literal sclerosis.
- This number is expected to increase to 1.2 million by 2030.
- Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year.
- More than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s.
- The incidence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age, but approximately 4% of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50.
- Men are about 1.5 times more at risk of the disease than women.
Now that you have a bigger picture of Parkinson’s disease, it’s time to talk about the earliest symptoms we usually ignore, and then move on to the more obvious and already “big” signs that physical and mental changes are taking place.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. Symptoms begin gradually, sometimes with a barely noticeable tremor (vibration or rapid, involuntary contraction and relaxation of a group of muscles) in one arm. In the early stages of the disease, your face may not show any expression. Your hands may not swing as you walk. Speech may become slurred. Unfortunately, this is one of those diseases for which there is no cure, but the condition can be significantly improved with various activities and medications (under the supervision of a doctor) which we will tell you about in the next article. Now let’s turn your attention to those signs that you should not miss.
Parkinson’s disease usually causes stiffness throughout the body. Like tremor, stiffness often begins on one side, usually the same side of the tremor, but subsequently affects both sides of the body.
About 60% of people living with Parkinson’s disease experience pain due to stiffness and muscle rigidity (numbness). The pain associated with Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles or joints in the absence of visible injury.
People who suffer from Parkinson’s disease can be immediately spotted with their walk. They often walk very slowly and tend to keep their legs relatively straight instead of bending them at the knees while walking. When someone with Parkinson’s disease walks, their feet stay closer to the ground instead of being lifted with each step.
Most people with Parkinson’s disease move slowly – what is known as bradykinesia (slow movements). This starts early in the course of the disease but like most symptoms is often not noticeable until the diagnosis is made.
In some patients, speech may be slow while in others more rapid, but speech problems are among the most common symptoms. In a larger percentage of people, the voice becomes weak and monotonous with imprecise articulation.
This may sound surprising, but scientists say Parkinson’s disease can be “read” in a person’s handwriting. Doctors call it “micrography” – when the manuscript gradually becomes smaller and the words begin to accumulate at the bottom of the page.
Lack of expression
As mentioned above, lack of expression is a sure sign of Parkinson’s disease. Of course, if the disease is at a very early stage, you may not notice it at all on yourself, but you will definitely notice it on a loved one or relative. They will look as if they are not at all interested in what you are telling or showing them, although they will probably feel good physically.
Leaving aside the expression, Parkinson’s patients can suffer from an absolute lack of interest in anything that happens. Apathy is one of the earliest effects of the disease.
This is felt less often because none of us count how many times we blink, and we hardly have the feeling that we do it often. People who blink less, and therefore less often, look as if they are constantly staring at someone or something. This makes the eyes dry, which is already becoming an obvious problem.
A symptom that you can rarely assume is related to Parkinson’s disease. Often people suffer from very dry skin, be it eczema, atopic dermatitis, or psoriasis. However, flaky skin and dry scalp can also be a symptom of Parkinson’s.
Sleep problems can include difficulty falling asleep at night or drowsiness, or even falling asleep unconsciously during the day. Restless legs syndrome, a condition characterized by the constant need to move your legs, is also common in Parkinson’s patients.
There is other much less common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but they are also not to be ignored. Some of them are:
- Inexplicable crying.
- Low blood pressure – a problem often described as dysautonomia (malfunction of the autonomic nervous system). Dysautonomia causes fluctuations in blood pressure – mostly unexpected drops in blood pressure.
- Subcortical dementia. This is characterized by difficulties in decision-making, personality changes and a complete slowdown in thought. However, dementia usually occurs late in the course of the disease.
- Crouched posture.
- Swallowing problems.
- Balance problems – felt even in daily tasks, such as walking up and down the stairs. As the disease progresses, it becomes a challenge to stay upright without leaning on something for support.
- Variable emotions.
- Constipation and urinary retention.
- Hallucinations – usually caused by medicines prescribed for Parkinson’s disease.
Of course, do not think that once some of these symptoms are well known to you, it immediately means that you suffer from Parkinson’s disease. As we mentioned above, they can be associated with many other problems or temporary ailments, but you should never neglect them. If you have symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, balance problems, forgetfulness, or sleep problems, go for an examination, do not wait for them to subside on their own.
Fear of diagnosis often prevents people from seeking an assessment. Know that many symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are treatable, and early treatment is the best way to deal with this and many other diseases. Parkinson’s disease will certainly cause some disturbances in your life or in the lives of your loved ones, but fortunately it is not fatal and people living with it often have long, healthy, and productive lives.Leave a reply