The first step after a Parkinson’s diagnosis is to take a pause and engage with your journey. Yes, it is difficult and not the news you may have hoped for but connecting with reality is the only way to take a step forward. Parkinson’s is degenerative, but the symptoms are varied and sometimes manageable too. So, if you have recently been informed of this diagnosis, read on for five things you should know as you progress.
What causes Parkinson’s disease? The simplest answer is that the neurons in the brain begin to malfunction and die. Most typically, the dopamine neurons are the main target, and the consequence of this is a breakdown in the ability to control motor functions and beyond. There may sometimes be Lewy bodies present in the brain (associated with dementia also), or environmental triggers could be the cause. Genetic factors are sometimes at play, but there is no single, definitive answer as to why Parkinson’s disease exists and what the root cause may be.
Some demographics are more at risk than others. For example, for some reason, men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women. Also, the average age for a diagnosis is over 60 years. Those with relatives who suffer from the disease are also at risk, and people exposed to certain herbicides and pesticides have a higher risk profile too.
Physical & Cognitive Symptoms
Parkinson’s is a very physical disease, in that motor functions are severely affected as things progress. Anyone with a diagnosis may experience:
- Dysphagia: Trouble swallowing and eating is a common occurrence. It can be combatted with products like thickeners from the SimplyThick company, and physical therapy.
- Tremors: Tremors are frustrating for lots of Parkinson’s sufferers and can make daily life extremely difficult. It is one of the most common characteristics that lead to securing a diagnosis.
- Muscle Stiffness: Stiffness all over the body including internally. This causes further problems with getting comfortable and feeling general pain.
- Cognitive impairment: Thought processes and awareness can be affected alongside memory towards the later stages of the condition.
- Posture issues: Owing to muscle stiffness and tremors, posture is often affected.
- Bladder problems: Incontinence is a frequently reported symptom in this area.
- Speech difficulties: Speech is negatively affected too, making it difficult to maintain conversations.
- Constipation spells: Constipation is common and often painful too.
There are medication options to manage the symptoms of this condition, but so far there is no cure. Aside from traditional medications, physical therapy is heavily recommended. It is rare to actually need treatment in the early stages of the disease, and the need becomes more relevant towards the later stages. If symptoms are quite severe, for example, a consistent tremor that makes it hard to grip or perform basic functions, this could be indicative of a bigger problem. Always flag any symptom with your care provider for investigation and treatment exploration.
Parkinson’s disease is more common in the male, senior population. It causes muscle stiffness, tremors, bladder, and cognitive problems too. The condition has no cure, but the symptoms are manageable with the right treatment path and a switched-on medical team.