07 Apr April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to control their body movements. In Australia, it affects 100,000 people with 38 people being diagnosed every day.
Parkinson’s results from the loss of cells in various parts of the brain, including a region called the substantia nigra. When dopamine production is depleted, the motor system nerves are unable to control movement and coordination. The dopamine producing cells are lost over a period of years and the motor type symptoms such as tremor, rigidity etc. will start to appear.
During this month, Parkinson’s Australia is promoting the importance of identifying some of the lesser-known early warning signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s.
It is important to note that not everyone will experience the same symptoms, and the order in which symptoms appear and the way symptoms progress also varies from person to person. Parkinson’s is a very individual condition, with each person experiencing different symptoms.
Additionally, non-motor symptoms such as sleep disturbance, constipation, and loss of sense of smell can pre-date the motor symptoms, such as a tremor, slowness of movement or rigidity, by up to a decade.
Young Onset Parkinson’s (YOPD)
A common misconception is that Parkinson’s is an old person’s disease, and the reality is much different as Parkinson’s is diagnosed in 3 Australians under the age of 40 every day. Most of you will remember how Michael J. Fox, iconic actor and author, was 29 years old when he was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s (YOPD). YOPD generally refers to a person who is diagnosed under the age of 50. As is the case with all Parkinson’s, the symptoms and rate of progression varies greatly from person to person. They also may have different approaches to treating symptoms and may encounter unique situations surrounding work and family. It is also not uncommon for people with YOPD to have a longer journey in their diagnosis as they may present with shoulder or arm stiffness which may initially be attributed to a sports injury.
Although everyone with Parkinson’s probably wonders what the years ahead hold, this may be top of mind in those who have a longer future with Parkinson’s. Concerns often relate to the potential implications of the disease on personal, family and work commitments and responsibilities.
Evidence suggests that regular exercise can improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improve your quality of life. Consult closely with your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional when devising your own exercise program.
Benefits of regular exercise for a person with Parkinson’s disease can include:
- better control over gross motor movements, such as walking
- greater muscle strength and flexibility
- increased cardiovascular fitness
- improved coordination and balance
- reduced risk of falling
- improved posture
- greater confidence in performing daily activities
- reduced stress levels
- improved joint mobility.
At Timboon and District Healthcare Service we offer a Parkinson Disease (PD) Neuro class and for more information, please contact us on (03) 5558 6000. The class not only provides regular exercise tailored to Parkinson’s, but also provides an opportunity to interact with other community members with the same diagnoses.
Where to get help
Information provided on the Parkinson’s Australia website (https://www.parkinsons.org.au/about-parkinsons) can help you navigate your journey and there is also the Young Onset Parkinson’s Exchange (YOP-X) App and website (https://youngonsetparkinsons.org.au/).
It is important to remember to discuss any issues or concerns you have about your Parkinson’s with the doctors and other health professional who support and care for you. You can also contact our Timboon Clinic on (03) 5558 6088 to make an appointment with one of our GP’s.